The road ahead: Illinois women’s cross country begin down path to national championship

The+Illinois+womens+cross+country+team+runs+down+a+hill+during+their+first+lap+around+the+Universitys+Arboretum+for+the+Illini+Challenge+against+Illinois+State+on+Sept.+1.+The+Illini+will+be+heading+to+Indiana+State+for+the+John+McNichols+Cross-Country+Invitational+on+Saturday.+

Sydney Laput

The Illinois women’s cross country team runs down a hill during their first lap around the University’s Arboretum for the Illini Challenge against Illinois State on Sept. 1. The Illini will be heading to Indiana State for the John McNichols Cross-Country Invitational on Saturday.

By Theo Gary, Contributing Writer

Illinois women’s cross-country goes on the road Saturday, competing in the John McNichols Cross-Country Invitational at Indiana State.

Two weeks ago, Illinois competed in and dominated the Illini Challenge, taking eight of the top-12 spots against Illinois State. The Illini’s entire roster didn’t even compete as upperclassmen, like senior All-American Olivia Howell, were held out.

In Terre Haute, however, the Illini will be facing a different, more serious test.

“We line up close to our full lineup this weekend,” Haveman said. “So we’re looking forward to it being a great opportunity to kind of begin our path back to the national championship.”

The national championships have evaded the Illini in recent memory. Last season’s finish in the NCAA Midwest Regional was a disappointing, placing fifth. The Illini did not advance to the national meet.     

“That was a big disappointment,” Haveman said. “Last year, we had a really good roster, and I felt as though it was one of our strongest teams and we just didn’t perform or put things together on that day. So, ultimately we’re looking to get back on track and do what we’re capable of at the regional meetings.”

For many runners, this is their first meet of the year. Despite that, the runners are feeling good, appreciating the warm weather ahead. 

“We’re in a good place,” Haveman said. “We’ll continue to add to our lineup based on everybody’s schedule, you know what’s best for them individually. But this will be our first real opportunity to kind of see where we’re stacking up against some relevant teams in the region.”

As for goals, cross country is focused one one thing: winning. 

“We’re coming into the national rankings and ranked well in the region,” Haveman said. “So the goal will be to just keep progressing, beating the right teams when we have to.”

 

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