Women runners turn in fifth-place finish

By Jeff LaBelle

Angela Bizzarri’s top-five finish wasn’t enough to spring the women’s cross country team to the front Saturday as the Illini dropped to a fifth-place finish in the Terre Haute, Ind., Pre-Nationals.

Bizzarri, a sophomore All-American and the team’s top runner this season, scorched most of the 235 runners in the competition with her time of 20 minutes, 13 seconds. But the effort couldn’t keep the Illini from finishing behind five of the six top-15 ranked teams in the competition. Colorado State, ranked 14th in the country, finished sixth.

The Pre-Nationals was the Illini’s final competition before heading to the Big Ten Championships in two weeks and the Midwest Regionals after that. The competition gave Illinois a preview of the same course it will run on at the NCAA Championships on Nov. 19.

“We ran a solid race,” head coach Jeremy Rasmussen said in a press release. “We went out patient, which was good, and kept competing through the entire race. Obviously, Angela ran a great race, and our two through five runners really ran as a pack and worked together. It was great how they helped each other along and worked as a team.”

The 10th-ranked Illini finished with 189 points and five of their seven runners finished in the top 54. Eighth-ranked Princeton led all teams with 149 points, finishing ahead of Arizona, Michigan State and Washington, rounding out the top four.

Team scores were calculated by adding together the five best individual finishes for each team. Because lower scores equate to finishes closer to the front of the field, a lower team score constitutes a better finish.

Katie Engle was the Illini’s second fastest finisher with a time of 21:00 and freshman Danelle Woods, building on her 52nd overall finish at the Notre Dame Invite two weeks ago, finished 47th and was the Illini’s third-fastest finisher. Stephanie Baliga and Rachel Hernandez crossed the finish line together with times of 21 minutes, 17 seconds. Theresa Brokaw and Chantelle Groenewoud finished in the top 100.