Schneider's season sets the bar for Illinois women's cross-country team

By Mike Gasick

Tweet: Illinois women’s cross country kept improving through the season #IlliniBy Mike Gasick

Staff writer

The 2015 Illinois women’s cross-country team improved on many of its individual and overall performances from the 2014 season, paced by senior Alyssa Schneider, who had a career year.ss

The Illini opened their season by competing in the Illini Challenge, where the team finished first out of three teams. Schneider led the way for the the team, completing the 5K race in 17 minutes and 43 seconds.ss

The team then traveled to Normal, Illinois, to compete in the ISU Invitational. Schneider again led the way for the Illini, followed by redshirt senior Britten Petrey and sophomore Audrey Blazek to round off the team’s top three.ss The team finished third out of nine teams behind Loyola and Illinois State.ss

After a week off, the Illini returned to competition at the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis. The Illini finished ninth, improving nine spots from 2014’s campaign. Schneider again led the way, claiming a fourth-place finish in a field of 243 runners.ss

After three weeks off, the Illini returned to action in Louisville, Kentucky, where the Pre-Nationals race took place.

Schneider was held out of this race due to a lingering toe injury. Head coach Scott Jones also wanted to keep Schneider as healthy as possible for more important races later in the season.

The team finished in 43rd place out of 45 teams in what Jones called a “disappointing” race. The Louisville course would also be home to the NCAA Championships race.ss

The team bounced back at its next race, the Illini Open, at the University of Illinois Arboretum. Schneider was again held out for the race. Petrey broke 18 minutes for the 5K race and won the individual title. The Illini finished third out of eight teams.ss

The highly-anticipated Big Ten Championships were next on the schedule for the team.

The Illini came in eighth place as a team and Schneider, fresh off her extended rest time, earned herself a third-place finish at the meet and used the high finish as momentum heading into the next race.ss

That next race was the NCAA Regionals, where the team hoped to get at least one of its runners to race in the NCAA Championships.

Schneider posted a 20:12, good for second overall and a bid to the national race. She qualified for the NCAA Championships two years ago and made her return this season.

Junior Valerie Bobart also had her best race of the season, finishing second on the team with a mark of 21:33.ss

The team’s season was capped off by the best performance of Schneider’s career at the NCAA Championships. She completed the 6K race in 20:09, good for 17th place out of the 254 participants.ss

Illinois will return 14 of its 20 athletes from this year’s team. Sophomores Blazek and Denise Branch and juniors Megan Lemersal, Kim Seger, Hanna Winter and Bobart all competed in multiple races. They will look to carry the team to a successful 2016.

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