Illini cross country teams ready to kick-start season

 

 

By Kyle Diller

The men’s and women’s cross country teams kick off their seasons tomorrow, hosting the Illini Challenge at the Illinois Arboretum. The team’s respective fringe runners – athletes on the verge of cracking the starting lineup – will use the Challenge to hone their abilities and push to represent the team by season’s end.

Women’s cross country will begin the season with high expectations, coming off a sixth-place finish in last season’s NCAA Championships.

“Going into the season my expectation are for us to make the next step, for us to be one of the best programs in the nation,” said head coach Jeremy Rasmussen. “Our goal as a team is to try to be a trophy team, which would be top four.”

At the Illini Challenge they will be competing in a 4K race against Illinois State, Northern Illinois, Danville Area Community College, Rend Lake, Lincoln and Robert Morris.

Many of last year’s top runners, including junior All-American Angela Bizzarri and senior Katie Engel, will be withheld from the Illini Challenge to be fresh for the bigger competitions down the road. The runners competing in the Challenge will consist of seniors Christina Beaird and Krystelle Lim, juniors Elizabeth Boyle, Mara Horwitz, Kendall Nemeth and Ashley Thompson, and sophomores Stacy Hague, Grace Lien, Maggie Mulchrone, Carolyn Tysse and Kate Tysse.

With the runners setting their individual goals for the season, Kate Tysse and Hague agreed their goal for this season is simple – to run faster than last year.

Rasmussen will use the meet for the newer runners to gain the competitive experience they need to ascend in the lineup.

“Going into this race I’m looking to see where people are at with their summer training,” said Rasmussen. “This is a great opportunity too for the girls to make strides to the next step, which would be being able to run in some of the bigger meets.”

The men’s cross country team will run in a 6K race, competing against the same teams as the women, with the exception of Rend Lake, which is only competing in the women’s race.

In last season’s Illini Challenge, four of the Orange and Blue runners finished in the top seven, including sixth-place finisher Michael Murray, who will be competing in this year’s event.

The men’s team for the Illini Challenge will consist of senior Ryne Beeson, juniors Jeremy Stevens and Garrett Weaver, sophomores Dan Kremske and Michael Murray, and freshmen Chris DeSilva, Kyle Engnell, Ron Revord, Jim Riddle and Nate Troester.

The Illini Challenge is the beginning of a season in which the men’s team is looking to take its program to the next level.

“We want to become a program that is consistently battling to go to the NCAA Championships as a team,” said head coach Wendel McRaven.

“Since I’ve been here we’ve had individuals in nationals, now we want to see the end result and see a team in place to qualify for NCAA Championships,” he added.

This season is also a year of individual improvement for the runners.

“My goal this season is to finish strong at the end of the season. In the past I usually falter off towards the end,” said Murray.

“I’m going to be happy, as long as by the end I’m running my best times.”