Illini leave John McNichols Invitational victorious, Howell continues dominating


Photo courtesy of Illini Athletics

Senior Olivia Howell leads the race during the John McNichols Invitational on Saturday. The Illini took an outstanding victory on Saturday’s Cross Country match, with Howell’s 17:17 finish becoming the highlight of the event.

Illinois women’s cross country left Terre Haute, Ind., as winners after competing in the John McNichols Invitational. Illini runners took first, third, fifth, eighth, ninth and 14th, aggregating to a first place finish, a full 17 seconds ahead of second place finisher Toledo.

However, the meet wasn’t a total blowout. Toledo more than kept pace with Illini, covering every spot in the top-10 left unoccupied by Illinois. Toledo distance runners Faith Linga and Joy Chirchir took second and fourth respectively, while Madeline and Emily Vining rounded out at sixth and seventh.

For Illinois, the performance is attributed to Olivia Howell. The senior All-Big Ten performer from Solon, Ohio, finished first Saturday morning with a time of 17:17.8

“It feels really good to be back,” Howell said. “Running cross (country), I definitely miss the team atmosphere that you don’t really get in track. I’m excited to leave more of a mark in cross country. I’ve accomplished so much in track and I want to do that especially with my team.”

Expectations are high for Howell, now in her junior year. She’s had success in the past, there’s no question about that. It’s maintaining that success which is the challenge.

“I hope to come out at least the next two years with a national championship or a few,” Howell said. “It’s harder to maintain the titles at the Big Ten meets the following years, it’s harder to maintain than achieve.”

For the team, this was only the first of many challenges to come with the long season.

“They wanted to make sure that we went out there for each other,” Howell said. “That we let other schools know that we came here with high goals.”

The rest of the Illini were not far behind her. Senior Emma Milburn (17:30.5) finished third while sophomores Halle Hill (17:33.8) and Sam Poglitsch (17:45.6) finished fifth and eighth, respectively.

Senior Madison Marasco (17:47.4) finished ninth and sophomore Maggie Gamboa (18:00.6) finished 14th.

Illinois women’s cross country will travel to Columbia, Miss., on Sept. 30 for the Gans Creek Classic.


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