New faces compete for women's cross country at Illini Open

By Mike Gasick

The Illinois women’s cross-country team entered Friday’s Illini Open without many of its top runners.

Redshirt senior Alyssa Schneider, juniors Hanna Winter and Valerie Bobart and redshirt sophomore Audrey Blazek were given the day off. Head coach Scott Jones said he wanted his top runners to be as prepared as possible for next week’s Big Ten Championships.JT

There were a few regulars who raced for the Illini, including redshirt senior Britten Petrey who captured the event’s individual title, cruising across the line in 17 minutes 54 seconds. Juniors Megan Lemersal and Kim Seger were third and fourth to finish for Illinois, respectively.JT

Jones wanted to rest most of the team’s regular starters to ensure that all of them will be healthy come race time next Sunday. Jones’ decision allowed for runners who have not competed in as many races this year the opportunity to step up.

Senior Lindsey Rakosnik, redshirt sophomore Ellie Palacios and redshirt freshman Kristina Kladar raced for the first time this season. Redshirt sophomore Nicole Choquette, an accomplished track athlete, finished second for the team in 18:58. Choquette was the Big Ten’s indoor track and field 600 meter champion in the spring.JT

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“We were more internally focused for this race,” Jones said. “We wanted to get a strong effort in as we prepare for the Big Tens next week.”

The invited teams were local Indiana and Illinois universities. The team finished third out of eight teams at the meet, falling behind first-place Bradley and second-place Northwestern.JT

Petrey led the race from the start, and finished 20 seconds of the ahead of runner-up Megan Mocogni from Loyola University Chicago. This was Petrey’s first college cross-country race victory in her career.JT Petrey noted that the victory could not have come at a better time and that the atmosphere of running with some athletes who ran their first races was an enjoyment.

“I really wanted to use this race as a confidence booster,” Petrey said. “I just wanted to tune myself up for the Big Tens next week and make sure I put a strong effort forward.”

The Illini will head to Evanston, Illinois to compete at the Big Ten Championship on Sunday. Schneider is expected to race after not participating in the Illini’s last two meets.JT

Jones said he is excited to see how his team will compete in the environment and hopes that his runners can have fulfilling races.“I think we have done the work we need to do to put ourselves in a position to be successful up in Chicago,” he said.

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