Men’s cross-country prepares for Midwest regionals


Alyssa Knights

Lining up before the race begins, runners Joe Crowlin, Garrett Lee, Luke Brahm, and Caleb Hummer stand ready to run as soon as the gunshot goes off. The Illini runners stayed together for the first two laps, but as the third one came, Lee pushed to second, Crowlin followed behind in third, Brahm in eighth, and Hummer rounded them out in nineteenth. The Illini Open was held at the Arboretum on October 21st, 2016.

By Tatiania Perry, Contributing writer

The Illinois men’s cross-country team will be looking to qualify as a team to the NCAA Championships for the first time since 1986. The Illini return to the Ashton Cross Country Course in Iowa City, Iowa, for the NCAA Midwest Regionals this weekend as the key to that breakthrough.

The team took a week to rest up, following its sixth place finish at the Big Ten Championships.

“We ran with the mindset that we want to make things happen, and that was refreshing for our group to do,” head coach Jake Stewart said. “We’re a good team; I think we have a little bit of momentum now.”

Senior Dylan Lafond is looking to qualify for the NCAA Championships for the second year in row.

In order to qualify as one the 31 teams for the NCAA Championships next week, the Illini must place in the top two or make enough of an impact to be chosen as one of the 13 additional teams.

Qualifying individually is a bit different.  The top-38 runners whose teams didn’t qualify for NCAA Championships are eligible for an individual qualification. Four runners from each regional plus two additional runners can qualify for the final race.

Along with Lafond, four runners will be returning to the regionals: sophomores Jessie Reiser, Zach Smith, Billy Magnesen and Dan Lathrop.

Also joining them are freshmen Jon Davis and Caleb Hummer.

The Illini opened their season at this course in the beginning of September, placing third out of nine teams.

Stewart said that there is always an advantage to seeing the course early on so that his team has a chunk of the season to train specifically for it.

The Illini are currently ranked No. 7 in the Midwest by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association. The top two teams are Oklahoma State and Iowa State, respectively.

“I think our personnel fits the course we’re going to see on Friday,” Stewart said. “I think we can put ourselves in the mix to be in the top three or four, and I think that’s the expectation because we were seven points away from being in a good spot at Big Tens.”

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