McGrath steps up in fall season


Sophomore Allison McGrath runs at the Midwest Regional on Nov. 9. McGrath topped the Illini with a 18th-place finish overall and a personal best in the 6K.

By Claire O'Brien, Staff Writer

Sophomore Allison McGrath led the Illini in Friday’s NCAA Midwest Regional meet. Despite her underclassman status, McGrath has improved over the last 12 months and stepped into a leadership role on the team this season.

McGrath improved her time compared with last year at the 2017 NCAA regionals from 22:04.9 and 133rd place to 18th with a time of 21:01.

After the 2017 NCAA meet, McGrath felt good about her finish since the time was her then-personal best, but this year, she looked for improvement.

“I wanted to place a little bit higher,” McGrath said. “It was a pretty good first year.”

During the off-season, McGrath ran hard and increased her mileage, which made a difference in her performance.

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“I didn’t do too much different(ly),” McGrath said. “Last year, I think during cross country season, I averaged 45 miles per week, but this year, I did 55 miles per week.”

McGrath led the Illini at the EIU Walt Crawford Open, the team’s first meet of the season, and dropped her time from 18:35.30 to 18:23.20 in the 5K race, shaving off 12 seconds.

At the 2017 Big Ten meet, McGrath ran across the line at 22:42.1, finishing 88th. One year later, McGrath finished the 6K in 21:22.4, improving her time by 80 seconds and earning a 44th-place finish, right behind fellow sophomore Rebecca Craddock, who finished 43rd with a time of 21:18.9, four seconds ahead of McGrath.

At last Friday’s NCAA regional meet, McGrath led the Illini to fourth place. She improved her time by 63 seconds and finished in 18th place, jumping 115 places from her finish in 2017.

“The team performance was just awesome,” McGrath said. “I was really happy with how I did individually.”

This season, McGrath has become a leader for the Illini. The team was comprised of 18 freshmen and sophomores, two juniors and no seniors, so the sophomore class provided the bulk of the leadership for the squad. The NCAA regional team consisted entirely of freshmen and sophomores. And with one college cross country season under her belt, McGrath felt more confident and knew what to expect. However, McGrath  didn’t anticipate this season’s success.

“I was pretty surprised with how well (the season) went,” McGrath said. “I obviously wanted to improve from last year, but I definitely improved more than I expected, which is awesome.”

That confidence translated to the Illini’s performance at regionals. The team outran every other Illinois-based team in Friday’s meet, including Big Ten rival Northwestern. The Illini ran against the Wildcats four times during the season but hadn’t outperformed them until Friday.

McGrath said she has several take aways from the season, but the most valuable one is feeling confident in her abilities.

“I’ve learned to be confident in myself,” McGrath said. “I’m super excited to keep progressing and improving into the track season and then in future years.”

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