Illini finish 43rd in "disappointing" meet at Pre-Nationals

By Mike Gasick

@IlliniWXC finished 43rd at Pre-Nationals meet. #IlliniBy Mike Gasick

The Ilinois women’s cross-country team had to work hard to reach a race filled with top-tier teams at this year’s Pre-Nationals meet.

After a solid performance at last month’s Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Illini qualified to compete against high-level competition – Louisville considered the Illini’s performance at the Griak Invite good enough to enter the race.

Some of the teams that competed in this year’s meet include Oregon, Georgetown, Michigan, Colorado and Stanford.

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As a team, the Illini finished 43rd in the 45-team field. Michigan took the Pre-Nationals title with a score of 150. Colorado finished in second place with a score of 151. Oregon rounded off the top three, posting a score of 175.

“We were disappointed,” head coach Scott Jones said. “I thought we had higher aspirations. It wasn’t the effort that I was disappointed with, it was more the outcome.”

The Illini were led by junior Hanna Winter, who completed her best race of the season, finishing in 21 minutes and 30 seconds, good for 161st place.

Jones said Winter was comfortable in the racing environment and passed 57 people in the last half of the race. Jones believed that Winter handled herself well throughout the race.

Second to cross the finish line for the Illini was junior Audrey Blazek with a time of 21:46, good enough for 212th place.

Senior Valerie Bobart finished right behind Blazek, finishing one second later in 213th and junior Britten Petry followed, posting respective times of 21:47 and 21:54. Sophomore Denise Branch and junior Megan Lemersal were the next Illini to finish.The final runner to complete the race for the Illini was junior Kim Seger, who ended in 305th in 23:11.

Redshirt senior Alyssa Schneider, the team’s leading runner, who has finished first for the team in every race this season, did not run Saturday. According to Jones, Schneider was held out for precautionary reasons.

“If it was a do-or-die situation, she could have run, but it’s not,” Jones said.” We’ve got the meets that define our season still in front of us, so she wanted to be ready for that.”

Jones said that the environment may have been a factor in the “disappointing” outcome. The course was different than that at the Griak Invitational, and there were far more quality teams.

Illinois has one more race — the Illini Open on Oct. 23 — to prepare for the Big Ten Championships on Nov. 1.

[email protected]?@mike_mgasickSources: