Illini women's cross-country to compete in NCAA Regional Championships

By Mike Gasick

Tweet: @IlliniWXC to compete in NCAA Regionals on Friday. #Illini

By Mike Gasick

Alyssa Schneider isn’t done yet.

After finishing third at the Big Ten Championships in Evanston, Illinois, the redshirt senior wants to extend her cross-country career one more week at the NCAA Regional Championships.

The Illini will head to Lawrence, Kansas, to compete in Friday’s regionals. Schneider has the opportunity to return to the national championships, which she last competed in during the 2013 season.

“I’m really excited, especially with it being my senior year,” Schneider said. “It’s kind of hitting me that this will be my last year.”

Schneider wants to improve on her 33rd-place finish at last year’s regionals, when she posted a time of 20 minutes and 59 seconds.

Schneider noted that the Big Ten Championship certainly gave her a great deal of confidence heading into regionals. She also mentioned that she knows staying focused throughout the race will be especially important to her overall finish because she does not want it to be her last.

Head coach Scott Jones said Schneider is running as well as anyone in the region and is looking forward to seeing what she can accomplish at the race, whether it be a personal record or another NCAA Championships bid.

Jones wants to make sure he is smart about the team’s preparations heading into this important race. He has instituted more light practices with a few high-intensity workouts to keep the team fresh.

The team is scheduled to race Schneider, redshirt sophomore Audrey Blazek, junior Hanna Winter, sophomore Denise Branch, junior Valerie Bobart and junior Megan Lemersal.

“I thought we had a really productive week,” Jones said. “I think we just need to keep that stimulation as we go into the regional week.”

Jones is not just focused on Schneider’s opportunity at hand, but also on his team having a strong race to close out many of the other runners’ seasons.

The other senior in the starting lineup, Britten Petrey, will look to continue her recent success heading into this race. Over Petrey’s last two races, she posted a first-place finish at the Illini Open, as well as an impressive sub-21-minute 6k race at the Big Ten Championships.

“We’ve done what we can do physically, and we have to have confidence in our talent and training,” Jones said.

The Illini have goals that they would like to reach at the race. Finishing in 10th place last year, the team thinks that it is reasonable to believe a single digit finish can be achieved. The team collectively wants a race leaving the runners feeling good about themselves heading into the offseason.

Iowa State won last year’s regional title at Peoria’s Newman Golf Course, with Minnesota and Bradley following in second and third place, respectively.

The Lawrence, Kansas, course at Rim Rock Farm is a true cross-country course with a few hills, extensive straightaways and bountiful scenery. The course is home to the University of Kansas’ men’s and women’s cross-country teams during the fall.

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