Illinois women’s cross country to run third meet at Roy Griak Invitational

By Mike Gasick

The women’s cross country team heads to Minneapolis Saturday to run the Roy Griak Invitational. 

It will be the Illini’s third race of the season. Thus far, the team finished first out of the three teams at the Illini Open, and then came in third out of nine teams at the ISU Invitational. 

Illinois will run sophomores Audrey Blazek and Denise Branch, juniors Valerie Bobart, Hanna Winter and Kim Seger, along with seniors Britten Petrey and Alyssa Schneider. 

Illini head coach Scott Jones is said he is aware of the strong competition his team will face this weekend.

“It’s a competitive field,” Jones said. “Michigan State is one that definitely stands out. They are a proud program and one that does things the right way.”

Michigan State, the reigning Big Ten champions, won the Roy Griak Invitational last year.  

Finishing 18 out of 35 teams at the invite last season, Schneider knows that the team needs to make improvements and adjustments going into the race this time around. She finished 58 out of 390 runners at last year’s race, running a time of 22:30. Schneider hopes to improve on her place and time this year. 

“We really just want a strong team performance, stronger than last week, stronger than last year,” Schneider said. “I don’t think any of us were pleased with last year’s results.”

Last year’s invite was the first time the team saw the course. The weather was hot and humid, which made for unfavorable conditions for the runners. 

“It was an eye-opening experience for us,” Jones said. “I don’t think we handled the overall competitive situation very well.”

Jones noted that the team had come off a couple of strong meets to start the 2014 season and was simply overwhelmed with the strong competition and uncomfortable weather conditions. This year, the weather looks much more favorable with mild temperatures and low humidity forecasted for Minneapolis on Saturday. 

The team has been busy at practices preparing for the challenging, hilly course by running at its home course. The University of Illinois Arboretum, the Illini’s home course, has a few hills of which the team can practice to prepare for the upcoming meet. Jones wants his team to build up stamina to get through the most difficult parts of the course that have hills. 

“We have to use our confidence from training,” Schneider said. “We know the course is known for its hills.”

Jones has confidence in his team going into the race and hopes his team can rebound strong after last year’s performance. 

“We have to work together with our teammates to get us through some of the more challenging portions,” Jones said. “That is something to help us run in a more disciplined fashion than last year.”

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