Women’s cross-country places second at Orange and Blue Preview

Heading into Friday’s Orange and Blue Preview, the Illinois women’s cross-country team knew it was in for a challenge. With conference foes Wisconsin and Michigan coming to the UI Arboretum, the team had plenty to prepare for.

The Illini took second Friday with 49 points, behind Michigan (15) and ahead of Wisconsin (83). No. 13 Michigan looked impressive, taking the top six spots and eight of the top nine.

“One of the things I said early in the week was that this meet’s going to tell us where we’re at,” Illinois head coach Jeremy Rasmussen said. “And we’ve got a lot of work to do. Today, hopefully, is an eye-opener for our group in understanding that we’ve got some work to do. We’re really young, but we’ve go the talent to be better than we were today.”

The Illini’s top finisher was sophomore Meghan Frigo, who took seventh place. Junior Madeline Aufmann followed her shortly in 10th and freshman Britten Petrey was 11th.

“The first loop I was struggling,” Frigo said. “The hill really got to me, but my teammates carried me through on the back stretch. By working with my teammates I was able to get back in the groove and push it in the second loop and hopefully my teammates were able to move up with me too.”

In her second race this season, Frigo finished first for the Illini for just the second time in her career. She also set a new personal record at the 6K distance, finishing in 21 minutes, 27 seconds, breaking her previous mark by 1:19.

“Meghan is going to be one of those people that is always consistent for us,” Rasmussen said. “Even though she’s only a sophomore, she’s one of our veteran runners, so being able to use her and learn from her is only going to help us.”

Michigan senior Danielle Tauro won the event with a time of 20:19. She was followed closely by teammates Rebecca Addison (20:26) and Taylor Pogue (20:23).

“Michigan has a very good veteran group,” Rasumussen said earlier in the week. “They also have a really good incoming class. In my opinion, they’re the favorites to win the Big Ten title this year.”

Said Frigo: “They’re a ranked team, but we weren’t going to give up without a fight. As a team, I think we learned something from this race, that we still need to keep fighting no matter what.”

All three teams will be back in Urbana for the Big Ten Championships, which will be held at the UI Arboretum on Oct. 30. The Illini’s next meet is Oct. 1 at the Sean Earl Lakefront Invitational in Chicago.

While Friday’s meet did give the team an idea of where they stand in the Big Ten, there is still much to be sorted out in the coming weeks.

“We need to continue to get better and use the experience from today to make sure that when we come back in six weeks for the Big Ten meet we’re ready to roll,” Rasmussen said.