Illini men's cross-country hope to bounce back after disappointing 2014

By Emma McGowen

After coming in fifth place at the NCAA Midwest Regional meet last season, the Illinois men’s cross-country team trained throughout the summer with the hope of finishing in better standings at the Big Ten Championships this year and making it to Nationals.

With last season having been plagued by injuries, including those to seniors Dylan Lafond and Liam Markham, both key contributors, the team has been aiming to maintain high levels of training.

“We mainly did base training over the summer,” senior Ian Barnett said. “We work into it and get a lot of mileage in weekly to give ourselves strength and a good base so that our body is ready to compete for the whole season. Then, toward the end, we throw in a few workouts like tempos, which are longer, faster runs at a certain pace.”

Hand-in-hand with the physical strength comes the mental strength that running requires.

“You have to stay positive,” Lafond said. “The people that surround you help you with the things that you cannot control. Everyone on the team pushes you not only on the track or cross country course, but at home as well.”

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Another goal the team is setting for this season is to be more race ready.

“We are going to be competing harder earlier on,” Barnett said. “Coach has some competitive races early on so we are not bust-and-rust at a big meet like Wisconsin where we are going in there fine-tuned and ready to go instead of hoping to run well but not really knowing what our capability is.”

Traveling all over the country for meets can bring forth a variety of challenges. The terrain of cross-country courses, for example, can be extremely diverse, but the types of terrain the team can practice on locally can be somewhat limited.

“(The courses) are flat, which is nice because there is not a lot of hill training we can do in Champaign,” Barnett said. “The regional course was changed up a little bit so now it is a lot flatter and with the depth and young guys that we have, we are suited really well to have a very successful season.”

The first meet of the season is the Illini Challenge on Sept. 4 at the University’s Arboretum.