Men’s, women’s cross country teams take home first in Red Bird Invite

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Photo Courtesy of Illini Athletics

Graduate student Jon Davis runs during a match for cross country. Jon Davis started off his season with a first place win.

By Renato Arteaga, Staff Writer

In just their second meet of the season, the Illini’s depth was on full display.

The cross country team traveled to Normal, Illinois for the Red Bird Invite hosted by Illinois State, which saw the Illini face off against competition, like Northwestern, Loyola and Marquette to name a few.

Both the men’s and women’s teams were both the champions with 34 and 43 overall team points, respectively.

The men’s 8k race and the women’s 6k race saw none of the Illini’s top runners showed any signs of rust after a two week rest. 

Graduate student Jon Davis led the charge for the men’s team in his season debut with a first place overall finish (23.22.8).

There were seven runners, including Davis, that finished in the top 15 for the men, while four runners finished in the top 15 on the women’s side.

Upperclassmen took home the top three finishes for the women’s team including senior Emma Milburn who came in second place with a time of 20:37.7.

Graduate students Alison McGrath (20:52.3) and Rebecca Craddock (20:52.7) followed closely behind Milburn with fifth and sixth place overall finishes, respectively.

A runner from every grade level (freshman to graduate student) managed to finish in the top 15 for the men including sophomore Tyler Cushing who was the second highest finisher for his team with a fifth place finish (24:38.8).

Juniors Jack Roberts and Eddie Lennon finished sixth and 15th for the men with times of 24:40.9 and 25:02.5, respectively. 

When asked about the team’s focus during the competition, Lennon praised his team’s leadership and teamwork as one of the biggest keys to their success.

“(Coach Haveman) was really trying to make sure we were working together today, and I think it really showed with our top three to four finishers,” Lennon said.

Lennon played a big role as the men’s top finisher during the team’s season opener on Sept. 3 with his fifth place finish at the EIU Walt Crawford Open (25:19.5).

He shared how valuable that initial first race of the year was for him coming into today’s race. 

“It was a lot of fun working and pulling in another personal record today,” Lennon said. “Last time, it gave me a lot of confidence compared to last season when we didn’t run a lot of 8k races.”

Freshman Margaret Gamboa carried over last meet’s momentum where she was also the highest finisher for her team with a second place finish (17:39.62).

At the Red Bird Invite, Gamboa managed to finish 15th as the women’s fourth highest finisher in just the second collegiate race of her career (21:40.4).

Another underclassman, freshman Nicolas Dovalovsky shined in his collegiate debut with a eighth place finish in Normal with a time of 24:45.2.

Next up for the Illini will be the Joe Piane Invite in Indiana on Oct. 1.

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