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Davis, Craddock lead Illinois cross country teams

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Davis, Craddock lead Illinois cross country teams

Jon Davis runs alongside an opponent from Oklahoma State. Davis was the third Illini ever to win Regionals.

Jon Davis runs alongside an opponent from Oklahoma State. Davis was the third Illini ever to win Regionals.

Photo Courtesy of Darren Miller

Jon Davis runs alongside an opponent from Oklahoma State. Davis was the third Illini ever to win Regionals.

Photo Courtesy of Darren Miller

Photo Courtesy of Darren Miller

Jon Davis runs alongside an opponent from Oklahoma State. Davis was the third Illini ever to win Regionals.

By Jared Farmer, Staff Writer

After the first year of combining both the men’s and women’s cross country teams into one program, Illinois cross country has ended its first joint season.

This season was highlighted by the rise of sophomore Jon Davis, who individually qualified for the NCAA Championship 10,000-meter race by winning the NCAA Regional meet, and of freshman Rebecca Craddock, whose constant improvement and leadership on the course set a good precedent for the future of the women’s team.

Both teams started off their seasons with victories at the Eastern Illinois Walt Crawford Open, with eight top-10 finishes combined for the Illini.

The men’s team went on to have a successful season, starting off with a victory at the John McNichols Invite, followed by a second-place finish at the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown. In the Greater Louisville Classic one week later, Davis ran a sub-24 minute 8,000-meter race, becoming the first runner to do so since Dylan Lafond broke the school record with a time of 23:22.4. Davis followed that up with another sub-24 minute 8K.

The women’s team, currently in the midst of a rebuild, had to experience some growing pains, but improvements across the board point to good things for the future.

Leading the women’s team in each race was Craddock, who continuously improved her personal record throughout the season. Along with Craddock, four other runners also set their personal best 5,000-meter times at the Greater Louisville Classic, followed by a 15th-place finish for Craddock at the Ed Nuttycombe Invite in the team’s first 6,000-meter race of the season a week later.

At the Illini Open, senior Alex Gold and freshman Kelli Callahan led the men’s and women’s teams, placing second and 17th, respectively. For Gold and fellow senior Joe Cowlin, this would be their final cross country races as Illini. This would also be the last regular season meet for the Illini, who spent the next two weeks preparing for the Big Ten Conference meet.

At the Big Ten Conference meet, the men’s team finished fourth overall, with Davis and junior Jesse Reiser each winning All-Big Ten Conference awards, while Craddock led the women’s team, finishing 45th overall, en route to a 13th-place finish as a team.

At the NCAA Regionals, the women’s team concluded their season with each runner individually setting their own personal best times in the 6,000-meter race, led by Craddock’s time of 21:07.5.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this season as a freshman,” Craddock said. “I thought it was really important to get my feet wet and get the experience needed to continue to succeed. Obviously, I didn’t finish all-conference and all-regional like I wanted to, but I still ran a PR on my last race, and I think I’ve had a solid season overall.”

Davis finished first overall at the NCAA Regional meet, running the second-fastest 10,000-meter race of any Illini with a time of 29:06.2. As the team failed to secure a top-two spot, Davis went on to represent the Illini at the NCAA Championship meet, finishing 49th overall.

“(The championship meet) didn’t go as expected, but I learned a lot from it,” Davis said.  “And being only a sophomore, I’ll have the opportunity to apply what I’ve learned into this indoor season and even going into next fall.”

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