Illinois women’s cross-country concludes season


Wenyuan Chen

Audrey Blazek crossing the finish line during the women’s cross-coutry Illini Challenge. The challenge was held at the UI Arboretum on Friday, September 2, 2016.

By Danielle Williams, Contributing writer

The Illinois women’s cross-country 2016 season has come to an end.

At the NCAA Midwest Regional, the team placed 14th. The University of Missouri landed first place, with Oklahoma State coming in second and securing a qualifying bid to the NCAA Championships.

For the first time this season, senior Valerie Bobart led the Illini in the race and achieved a personal record at a time of 21 minutes and 14.5 seconds.

Denise Branch, who has taken either first or second in every race that she’s competed in this season, clocked a time of 21:22.1, placing 54th overall. She ran her best time on the same course earlier in the regular season.

Audrey Blazek and Amanda Fox were the next two Illini to cross the finish line. Blazek placed 72nd with a time of 21:37.7, and Fox clocked in 21:41.4.
Head coach Scott Jones said that all but two of the runners ran this race better than the regional preview earlier this season.
“Our efforts were really good,” Jones said. “There were two runners that didn’t place as highly as they wanted but I think it’s because we raced more aggressively and we went for it. Sometimes that happens. I don’t have any regrets and neither should the athletes.”

Last year, the Illini placed 10th out of 32 teams overall, with an Illini qualifying for the championships.

“I don’t think there was any disappointment,”Jones said. “It’s fair to say that not everybody had the race that they wanted. In terms of what we did as a team, we exceeded our expectations.”

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Overall, Jones said the Illini had a great season and finished the year off strong with their performance at Regionals.

“In terms of effort and execution, we overall had a better team race earlier in the season at Iowa,” Jones said. The level of competition plays a role in what the outcome is. In this,we had to be a little bit reactive because there were people, and teams, that were better than us. I thought we raced really well, but not as well as you can when you’re in a position to dictate the race.”

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