Women's cross-country set for in Illini Open

By Mike Gasick

The Illini women’s cross-country team entered last week’s Pre-Nationals race without star redshirt senior Alyssa Schneider.

Schneider had been dealing with a lingering minor toe injury, and head coach Scott Jones decided to keep her out of the race for precautionary reasons.

The team will again be without Schneider this week at the Illini Open, as the race will be the final tuneup before the Big Ten Championships on Nov. 1. She said the racing in a lower-stakes environment will serve as preparation for the team’s more meaningful meets in weeks ahead.

Schneider expects to be ready for the Big Ten Championships and help the Illini’s push to finish the season in the top half of the Big Ten.

The Illini Open primarily serves as preparation for bigger meets down the road — Schneider did not compete in last year’s Illini Open, which fell the week before Big Ten Championships.

There are seven other teams competing in the Illini Open, so Jones will use this week to give other runners on the team an opportunity to race on their home course. The starting lineup has yet to be announced.

The Illini are not concerned about Schneider’s absence this week, as they are more focused on a strong team performance that can propel them into next week’s Big Ten Championships.

“We are going to have a more loose game plan going in,” Jones said. “We would like to be running more instinctively and trying to get a good, hard effort in.”

Coming off what Jones called a “disappointing” performance at the Pre-Nationals race, the team will look to use the Illini Open as a momentum builder heading into the Big Ten Championships and NCAA Regional Championships.

Junior Hanna Winter hopes to put forth another strong effort: She was the team’s top runner at Pre-Nationals finishing in 21 minutes and 30 seconds, Winter is optimistic she can help the team with a strong second half of the season.

“We want to work out some kinks and have a nice race in a less stressful environment,” Winter said. “We still want to keep that high volume of running hard.” 

Winter came in fourth overall at last year’s Illini Open, good for second on the team.

She noted that having run the Illinois Arboretum course multiple times before in practice and previous meets, there is a comfort level that she and her teammates feel with the course that will give them a slight advantage on how to attack it.

The Illini came in first at last year’s Illini Open, led by then-junior Colette Falsey who won the race in 17:44.

Bradley, Northwestern and Butler finished in order behind the Illini last year, and will return to the Illinois Arboretum this year.

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