Illinois returns to normal schedule with Eastern Illinois Walt Crawford Open

Jon+Davis+runs+cross+country+during+a+Big+Ten+meet.+Jon+Davis%2C+and+many+others%2C+prepare+for+the+upcoming+season.

Photo Courtesy of Illini Athletics

Jon Davis runs cross country during a Big Ten meet. Jon Davis, and many others, prepare for the upcoming season.

By Renato Arteaga, Staff Writer

The Illini men’s and women’s cross country teams will be competing at the Eastern Illinois Walt Crawford Open in Charleston, Illinois on Friday. This meet will showcase the Illini facing off against Eastern Illinois, Chicago State and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, to name a few teams.

Head coach Sarah Haveman shared how this meet will be a great opportunity for underclassmen to gain some much needed experience since both teams plan on resting their top runners.

“It’s a unique opportunity for us to race our student-athletes who are usually not in the top group,” Haveman said. “It’s great for some individuals to get some races since they might’ve not got a chance last season.”

Last year’s cross country season was a shortened season that was postponed until January, since COVID-19 led to the cancellation all fall sports.

The first meet of the season will also be crucial for the development of some sophomores on the team, since they only had a chance to get one race under their belts due to last year’s shortened season.

Upperclassman Jon Davis expressed how excited he is to watch the underclassmen get some experience during the first regular season meet of the season because of all the valuable lessons that come along with it.

“The first race is when everyone learns something, different things for sure,” Davis said. “It’s my sixth year competing in the NCAA, and I’m still learning something each time I race, so it’ll be exciting to see how the freshmen navigate their first 8K race.”

Haveman also shared how excited she is to watch each underclassman bring their own personality and how much they will help diversify the team.

“Each underclassman will develop uniquely,” Haveman said. “Freshman Jake Myers is a previous state champion, and we haven’t had a state champion attend Illinois in about 30 years, so that signee — plus the nine additions to the women’s team — makes it exciting.”

Every preseason, both teams sit down and discuss their goals for the season, while the individual athletes have one-on-one conversations with coaches to discuss their personal goals.

Upperclassman Rebecca Craddock shared how the women’s team’s goals are very accomplishable this year since the team has added a lot of depth to its roster.

“We always focus on getting better every year,” Craddock said. “We want to show up at the Big Ten Championship meet since last year was our best in a while. We also want to contend at the NCAA Championships again since we finished 21st last season.”

Craddock shared that beating her personal records would be nice to accomplish, but her personal goals include leading the team and making sure they are where they need to be.

This Friday’s meet will take begin at 3:45 p.m. with the women’s 5K event, and the men’s 8K event will take place at 4 p.m. The Illini will be competing on the Tom Woodall Panther Trail.

Following this meet, the Illini will be traveling to Normal, Illinois for the Red Bird Invite that will be taking place on Friday, Sept. 17 at 5 p.m.

 

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