Illinois cross country enters postseason, looks to shine at Big Ten Championships

Jon+Davis+and+Tyler+Cushing+begin+their+run+at+the+Joe+Pian+Invitational+on+Oct.+1.+The+Illinois+track+and+cross+country+team+are+headed+to+State+College%2C+Pennsylvania%2C+for+the+Big+Ten+Championships+on+Friday.

Photo Courtesy of Illinois Track & XC Twitter

Jon Davis and Tyler Cushing begin their run at the Joe Pian Invitational on Oct. 1. The Illinois track and cross country team are headed to State College, Pennsylvania, for the Big Ten Championships on Friday.

By Renato Arteaga, Staff Writer

The Illini cross country team has officially ended its regular season and is headed to State College, Pennsylvania for the Big Ten Championships on Friday.

Head coach Sarah Haveman has been helping the cross country program improve their playoff finishes every year since joining the team in 2018, and she has yet another opportunity to build upon that success with the team’s upcoming playoff meets.

Both programs are filled with veteran talent that have led the team to success all season, including graduate students Rebecca Craddock and Allison McGrath and senior Emma Milburn on the women’s team and graduate student Jon Davis on the men’s side.

There are also a few younger runners who might be playing a role in helping these teams succeed this postseason, including freshmen Margaret Gamboa and Nicolas Dovalovsky, who has had some strong performances this season.

The women’s team started off its season strong with a runner-up finish at the first meet of the season, the EIU Crawford Open, and followed that performance up with a first-place finish at the Red Bird Invite.

They are headed to their conference playoff meet on a hot streak after most of their top runners helped the Illini place ninth overall at the NCAA Pre-Nationals meet on Oct. 15. 

On the men’s side, Davis has been on a tear this season. He has managed to be the top finisher for the Illini in every race he’s participated in. 

The men finished 37th out of 40 teams at the NCAA Pre-Nationals Meet, so this next playoff competition will provide them a chance to showcase everything they’ve been improving this season. 

They finished sixth during last year’s Big Ten Championships, and Davis was the only member to qualify for the NCAA Championships.

Many of the top runners on both programs managed to rest at the Illini’s prior meet, the Illini Open, since it granted several developing runners an opportunity to compete.

After the Illini Open, freshman Evan Cummins shared that every runner’s strong performance at this meet is helping the men build their confidence heading into this upcoming postseason.

“Everyone is pretty invested in each other’s success,” Cummins said. “The boys are running strong, and these next couple of weeks include Big Ten, Regionals and possibly Nationals. Having guys going out there and showing they’re in great shape just gives the team confidence in the program and the things we can do this postseason.”

The Big Ten Championships is scheduled to start at 9:45 a.m. Central Standard Time.

 

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