Illinois cross country teams finish Pre-Nationals, look ahead for Illini Open meet


Photo Courtesy of Illini Athletics

Senior Emma Milburn was the team’s first finisher during the women’s Garnet 6k where she placed 18th with a time of 20:14.3. The Illinois cross country teams finished Pre-Nationals and now look ahead for the Illini Open meet.

By Renato Arteaga, Staff Writer

With playoff meets, like the Big Ten Championships and the NCAA Regional playoff meet, around the corner, the competition is starting to heat up.

The Illini’s cross country teams traveled to Tallahassee, Florida for the NCAA Pre-Nationals meet on Oct. 15 where the Women’s team earned a ninth place finish.

Senior Emma Milburn led the way for the Illini as the team’s first finisher during the women’s Garnet 6k where she placed 18th with a time of 20:14.3.

Freshman Annalyssa Crain was the Illini’s second finisher with a 55th place finish (20:44.2) followed by graduate students Rebecca Craddock and Allison McGrath who finished 71st (20:53.9) and 75th (20:55.7), respectively. 

The men’s team took home 37th place overall with four upperclassmen and one  sophomore finishing in the top five during the men’s Garnet 8k race including senior Colin Yandel who placed 141st with a time of 24:34.0.

Milburn shared that her team being able to stay and work together throughout the race including having an “orange scrunchie” mentality was one of the biggest keys to their success. 

“It kind of reminds us that we were in it together,” Milburn said. “When you’re struggling in a race you can just look up and find an orange scrunchie and focus on that person. That mentality really helped us along the way.”

The women’s cross country team was ranked fourth in the Midwest region coming into this meet, according to the USTFCCCA NCAA Division I rankings.

At the team’s previous meet, the Joe Piane Invitational on Oct. 1, Milburn also managed to finish as the Illini’s top runner with a 49th place finish (17:02.3) during the women’s blue 5000m race.

Milburn also noted how her development as a runner and leader has really grown over the course of her career and how it’s especially important with playoff competitions coming soon.

“I feel like the first couple of years I was more of a silent leader,” Milburn said. “I’m a soft-spoken person, so it took me a few years to blossom into more of a leader. Now, I feel like it’s time for me to step up as a leader, lead by example and be a positive force on the team.”

The NCAA Pre-Nationals meet featured some tough competition for both programs including several other top five ranked teams from a few different regions. 

The women’s ninth place finish overall helped the team put a step in the right direction as they turn their attention toward upcoming playoff meets, according to Milburn.

 “It gave us confidence because we know there are gaps that can be closed on our team,” Milburn said. “In a couple of weeks, we’ll be ready to show off all the hard work we put in.” 

On the men’s side, junior Jack Roberts was the Illini’s second finisher placing 205th with a time of 25:00.1 followed by sophomore Tyler Cushing, the youngest top five finisher for the Illini, who placed 228th with a time of 25:14.7.

 One of the men’s top runners, graduate student Jon Davis, was unable to compete during the Pre-Nationals meet, but Loud expressed how teamwork and building off each other’s success was the team’s focus coming into the meet.

“It was a pretty tough day, but we still got out there and ran pretty well,” Loud said. “We knew we would still be where we want to be as a team if every single person tried to run together. If one person has a great day, then they will pull the rest of the team together.”

Loud praised the performances of some underclassmen, such as freshman Nicolas Dovalovsky as well as Cushing, who he believes will help the men’s team accomplish their goals as the season slowly comes to an end.

“(Cushing) had a pretty good day and he has been killing it in our workouts, so it’s exciting to see him come up the ranks,” Loud said. “Nicolas is another guy that’s younger and has put in some 8ks this year. He is performing well for us, and I’ll think he’ll be a big piece of the puzzle for the next few weeks.”

The Illini’s following meet, the Illini Open, will take place at home at the University Arboretum on Friday, Oct. 22.

Loud and Milburn both shared how big this meet will be for the development of many younger athletes on both teams since most of the top runners will be resting in preparation for this season’s playoff competitions.


[email protected]