UI to take on Notre Dame

By Kyle Diller

The women’s cross country team will tackle its first major meet of the season when it heads to the Notre Dame Invitational on Friday, with many of last year’s top runners ready to make their season debuts.

Coming off of a first place finish in the Illinois Intercollegiate Championships, the No. 10 Orange and Blue have much needed momentum heading into the Invitational, which features 11 nationally-ranked teams including No. 3 Florida State, No. 6 Princeton, No. 13 Providence and No. 15 Michigan.

Two-time cross country All-American junior Angela Bizzarri will be held back from her season debut for the Illini until Pre-Nationals, while sophomore Danelle Woods will miss the meet due to injury.

“It’s probably going to be one of the best races of the year, besides the Pre-National meet and the National meet,” head coach Jeremy Rasmussen said.

“We’re holding out two of our top seven runners for different reasons, so going into it are we going to do as well as maybe should if we had those two individuals running, but everybody that’s running is healthy and is ready to go.”

Senior Maggie Carroll, who did not compete in 2007 due to injury, will be making her season debut in the Notre Dame Invitational.

“I haven’t raced cross country in two years now, so it’s been awhile off the course, but I’m excited,” Carroll said. “I’m just excited to go out there and compete and see what I can do.”

Senior Katie Engel, junior Theresa Brokaw and sophomore Chantelle Groenewoud will also be making their season debuts. All were part of the Illinois squad that placed sixth at the NCAA Championships last year.

Freshman Kristin Sutherland, last week’s Big Ten Runner of the Week, has high hopes for the weekend after winning the Illinois Intercollegiate Championships two weeks ago in her collegiate debut.

“It will be different because we’re having four girls who weren’t in the race with me at ISU are going to be in the race, so we’ll all be able to help each other, I think,” Sutherland said. “Do good as a team is the main goal.”

The Illini may be facing their biggest test of the young season this weekend, but Rasmussen and his runners are focused on the bigger picture as they prepare to go to South Bend, Ind.

“The season has now started where you can beat teams and earn points to go to the national meet, so that’s really our objective going into these meets,” Rasmussen said. “That’s really our goal and with 11 ranked teams that will be there, we’ll have plenty of opportunity to be able to take down a few team and garner some points to get to Nationals.”