Men’s cross country dominates in season-opening win, Illini women place third

By Kyle Diller

The host men’s cross country team’s season got off to a thrilling start at the Illini Challenge with a first-place finish on Friday.

An impressive six Illinois runners filled the top seven spots as junior Jeremy Stevens grabbed top honors with a time of 18:46.51 in the 6K race.

“It was just kind of a dress rehearsal, it was just good experience for me to get running and racing a little bit,” said Stevens. “I’m looking forward to the next few races, not really getting too pumped up until pre-nationals and Big Ten and regionals, I’d like to place in the top 40 there and maybe top ten in Big Ten.”

Illini freshmen Jim Riddle and Nate Troester finished closely behind Stevens, grabbing the second and third spots, respectively, while fourth-place freshman Dan Kremske and sixth-place sophomore Mike Murray also earned points for the Orange and Blue.

As a team, the men’s runners earned a first-place finish by earning a score of 15, the lowest possible score attainable in the meet.

“I was pleased to see Jeremey Stevens back running strong, I was really pleased with the freshmen,” said head coach Wendel McRaven. “It’s nice to win, I didn’t know coming in how good we would look because we’re so young and they looked pretty good.”

After grabbing a win in their first meet of the season, the Illini are looking to move forward with their season.

“The goal is November, the goal is the Big Ten Championships in November, we got a lot of work to do,” said McRaven. “There’s talent in the group and hopefully we’ll take that talent to the next level.”

The women’s cross country team finished in third place behind winner Illinois State University and Rend Lake College, who edged out the Illini by two points.

Junior Elizabeth Boyle finished top for the Illini in third place in the 4K race with a time of 14:50.54, behind first-place finisher freshman Lilian Lagat of Rend Lake College and sophomore Jess Husted of Illinois State University.

“I feel pretty good, especially with this being the first race of the year,” said Boyle. “I want to keep improving, I think I have a lot of potential this year to do really well.”

With the Challenge serving as a way for head coach Jeremy Rasmussen to assess his runners in a competitive environment, there was a lot for him to be happy about as far as the potential his runners exhibited.

“I think the day went well and there were a few good surprises, and I think we’ll be able to start from here and move forward,” said Rasmussen.

Next up for the women will be the Bradley Open on September 12, while the men’s next race will be the Illinois Intercollegiate on September 19.