Howell claims first place at NCAA Regionals while rest of Illinois women’s cross country falls short

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Photo courtesy of Illini Athletics

Distance runner OIivia Howell looks to her team with joy after receiving her first place medal during today’s NCAA regional meet. Although Howell secured first place the rest of the team left more to be desired and missing the opportunity for the team to perform in nationals.

By Theo Gary, Staff Writer

Illinois Women’s Cross-Country finished sixth at the 2022 NCAA regional meet, not qualifying the team for the national meet. Senior Olivia Howell (20:02.9) got back to her winning ways, finishing first overall. With her in the top-10 was grad student Emma Milburn (20:25.01), who finished 10th.

Backing up Milburn and Howell was sophomore Sam Poglitsch (21:10.4), who finished 51st, senior Ayah Aldadah (21:11.7), who finished 54th, sophomore Halle Hille (21:16.9), who finished 60th, fifth-year senior Madison Marasco (21:33.6), who finished 76th and sophomore Maggie Gamboa (22:14.00), who finished 136th.      

Overall, however, Illinois finished 6th with 176 points. Oklahoma State (58 points), Northwestern (88 points), Bradley (99 points), Iowa State (115 points) and Minnesota (137 points) finished ahead of the Illini. As a team, Illinois finished short of its goal.    

“I didn’t really have a goal individually,” Howell said. “My main focus was my team … just working together to try to accomplish our goal and push each other throughout the race and keep each other in check. Unfortunately, we were short of that goal.”

Even if the team as a whole came up short, Howell did not. She finished with the third fastest course and Illinois time ever, pulling away with a blistering final kilometer. Watching the meet, as the camera panned and the shot grew wider, Howell pulled ahead and ahead, from ninth to sixth, from sixth to third, from third to first. Pulling back and back, she rounded a bend and there was nobody, not a soul; she could have walked to the finish. 

“I try to search for another gear every race and definitely towards the end of races,” Howell said. “And it definitely goes to the sprint training that is my background. I started off as a sprinter actually, I started running and I think that just carries on into my finding those gears within the longer distance races.”

The Illini had already ran on this track, Sept. 30 at the Gans Creek Classic. They won that meet, finishing first. Howell recorded a time of 20:21.1, nearly 20 seconds slower than her time at the NCAA Regionals.

“It just helped me to know when to start my kick and when to make moves,” Howell said. “I was really aware of my weaknesses from my previous race there. So, that really helped.”

Howell’s season is not done. She will run at the nationals next Saturday. But as a team, the season for Illinois Women’s Cross Country has come to end.  

“After Big Tens we just wanted to come back and respond to that,” Howell said. “I think it carries on further than just this past meet. Definitely will drive us going into the next season.”

 

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