‘Confidence is building’: Illinois women’s cross country prepares for 2022 Big Ten Championship

Illinois+womens+cross+country+runners+Sam+Poglitsch%2C+Halle+Hill+and+Madison+Marasco+heads+towards+the+finish+line+as+they+finish+up+their+5k+run+at+the+Universitys+Arboretum+against+Illinois+State.

Sydney Laput

Illinois women’s cross country runners Sam Poglitsch, Halle Hill and Madison Marasco heads towards the finish line as they finish up their 5k run at the University’s Arboretum against Illinois State.

By Theo Gary, Staff Writer

Despite a strong start to their season, two successive second place finishesone at Bradley University, the other in the UI Arboretummeans that the Illini women’s cross country team will enter the postseason with a little less momentum.

Nonetheless, this Illinois team looks to amp up the competition come Friday and the Big Ten Championship meet in Ann Arbor. Olivia Howell has finished top-three in every meet she competed in this season. Behind her are a talented mix of upper and lower classmen with sophomores Halle Hille and Maggie Gamboa setting personal bests this season, as did fifth year seniors Madison Marasco and Ayah Aldadah.

Despite the two straight second place finishes, Illinois has had an extremely strong season, finishing first in every other one of their meets.

“I think our confidence is building,” head coach Sarah Haveman said. “I really like the way we rebounded after not our best showing at the Bradley meet. I think we showed a lot of composure and a lot of poise and a lot of focus. So I like to see that. That’s an important component of high level teams.”

Ranked third in the midwest region and receiving votes in the national polls, the Illini are performing at a high level.

“The best thing about the Big Ten conference is that it’s the best distance conference in the country,” Haveman said. “So every time you go there, you’re gonna have the opportunity for a very high level competition. So I think there’s about six teams on the women’s side that can be very competitive, and it will just be how it shakes out that day.”

The season’s competition and focuses have shaped the team now in Ann Arbor. They hope to put that into practice against tough competition.

“You know, one of the things we tried to focus on this year is like, head-to-head, woman-a-woman competition,” Haveman said. “So that’s what you’ll find at the Big Ten meet, is that you can kind of see how things are shaking out as they’re going and the teams have a feel for how they’re doing.

In terms of the running itself, it’ll be close.

“We’ll be feeling the front of the race,” Haveman said. “So that’ll certainly be exciting, but it’s going to be very, very tight up-front.”

Now that the ground is hard and the wind is cold, another layer of adversity is added to the mix for the Illini runners. The expectations, despite the challenges.

“(I hope that we continue) to be ourselves and stay authentic to who we are, and race to our strengths.”

 

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