Women’s cross country continues season at Bradley Open

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By Kyle Diller

The women’s cross country team will travel to Peoria, Ill., on Friday to compete in its first away meet of the season at the Bradley Open.

The focus will be on improvement when the Illini runners compete against 17 teams this weekend, including the likes of Bradley, Illinois Wesleyan and Indiana State. The Orange and Blue squad will consist of nine runners, including sophomore Stacy Hague, who will be competing for the first time this season, and freshman Amber Stack, who will be making her collegiate debut.

Heading into the Bradley Open, head coach Jeremy Rasmussen is looking for the runners to build on their teamwork.

“It’s important for everyone to be able to help and work together. At the (Illini Challenge), everybody ran well, but they didn’t necessarily work together and that really helps people when they get into a tough situation during the race,” Rasmussen said. “Once you get with your teammate you can really work together to pass as many people as possible.”

One thing many of the runners hope to take advantage of is their familiarity with the course. The Bradley Open will be run at Detweiller Park, the home of the Illinois High School cross country state meet – a race many of the Orange and Blue runners participated in during their high school cross country careers.

The team is seeking its first win of the season following a third-place finish in the season opener at the Challenge two weeks ago.

“I hope that our team comes out in first place because we’re a pretty well-known program and hopefully we can pull out the win,” sophomore Maggie Mulchrone said. “Also, just to work as a team and have all the girls get their best times and just improve from two weeks ago when we ran at home.”

The team is also aiming to gain competitive experience as they head into the rest of the season.

“It’s preparing me for the other meets, like just getting back into racing,” sophomore Carolyn Tysse said.

As the runners continue to mature as athletes, many of last season’s top runners, including two-time cross country All-American Angela Bizzarri, will not run in the Bradley Open. Coach Rasmussen plans to save her and other top runners until, at the earliest, next week and for the bigger meets later in the season, including the Big Ten and NCAA Championships.

Following the Bradley Open, the girls will travel to Normal, Ill., on Sept. 19 for the Illinois Intercollegiate Championships.