Illinois men’s cross-country places 23rd at NCAA Championships
November 19, 2016
The Illinois men’s cross-country team placed 23rd at the NCAA Championships on Saturday, ending a 30-year championship appearance drought.
Northern Arizona and Stanford took the top two spots, respectively
Senior Dylan Lafond made his second consecutive trip to the championships, finishing first for the Illini in 56th place with a time of 30 minutes, 34.6 seconds. Fellow senior Sean Pengelly finished in 233rd — Illinois’ sixth finisher.
Besides Lafond and Pengelly, the rest of the team consists of underclassman runners.
“I think it was an overall positive experience for this really collectively young group of guys to get into this meet relatively early in their career,” head coach Jake Stewart said. I think that can go a long way in setting a standard for this program and what we are trying to get done.”
Freshman Jon Davis finished second for the Illini in 80th place, followed by sophomore Jesse Reiser in 135th. Freshman Zach Dale and sophomore Zach Smith finished close together, 206th and 214th respectively. Rounding out the Illini was sophomore Dan Lathrop in 225th place.
“We did a good job talking to them throughout the course of the meet and the course of our time in Terre Haute in terms of ‘let’s stick to our schedule and stay consistent with everything’,” Stewart said. “Just constantly communicating with them and letting them know that this was just another race, there will be teams that don’t handle it as well and maybe that will allow us to beat some guys.”
The cross-country runners next turn to running track, indoor and outdoor. The indoor season starts Jan. 7 with the Border Battle meet.
“I think it bodes well for our track season since I’ve been here we’ve always had a group that performs at a little bit of a higher level in track then in cross-country,” Stewart said. “I think there is a lot of momentum and we can get some really good things done indoors and outdoors.”