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Men’s cross-country has record-breaking season

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Illinois' Dylan Lafond competes in the 3000 meter run during the Orange and Blue meet on February 20, 2016.

Illinois' Dylan Lafond competes in the 3000 meter run during the Orange and Blue meet on February 20, 2016.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Dylan Lafond competes in the 3000 meter run during the Orange and Blue meet on February 20, 2016.

By Tatiania Perry, Assistant sports editor

The Illinois men’s cross-country team had a bit of a rocky start and faced a large slump in the middle, but Illinois finished better than any Illini cross-country team in the past 30 years.

The Illini started off their season with smaller meets like the Hawkeye Invite, where they placed third out of nine, followed by the Bluegrass Invite, where they placed second out of four teams.

As the season progressed, the team took on larger invites such as the Roy Griak Invite, placing 10th out of 29.

The lowest point of the season was the Ed Nuttycombe Invite in Madison, Wisconsin, where the team placed 27th out of 30. However, it ignited a rapid turnaround for Illinois.

The highlight of the season was placing third at the NCAA Midwest Regional in Iowa City, Iowa. The team had to sit and wait for the official announcement on whether or not they had received an at-large bid for the NCAA championships in Terre Haute, Indiana.

“Coach told us to take 24 hours to celebrate, but we have to reengage because the job’s not done,” said redshirt senior Dylan Lafond following the Midwest Regional. “Our main goal wasn’t to make it there — even though that was huge for us — our goal is to go out there and beat some teams.”

Heading to the NCAA Championships, head coach Jake Stewart told the team to relax. Even though the meet is a big deal, he said the team must treat it like any other race.

The Illini ended up placing 23rd in Indiana with Lafond as the top Illinois finish in 56th place.

“The biggest thing we take out of this (meet) is the experience that we can use for the future,” Stewart said in a press release. “It was a tough day and our guys, for the most part, kept their senses about them pretty well. A lot of experience for a lot of young guys that we can use moving forward.”

All of the cross-country runners returned to run indoor and outdoor track.

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