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Marasco helps Illini to strong finish in cross country debut

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Marasco helps Illini to strong finish in cross country debut

By Jared Farmer, Staff Writer

A lot of emotions go through athletes’ head during their collegiate debut, that can affect their performance. A strong, focused start by Illini newcomer Madison Marasco proves she’s an exception.

Nervousness, pressure and excitement were prevalent during the Commodore Classic, but amid it all, Marasco had a solid debut for the Illinois women’s cross country program, finishing 10th overall last weekend with a time of 17:46.8 in the women’s 5k.

“My main focus was just representing the team,” Marasco said. “I think that we all were actually a little nervous just because it’s the start of a new season, but after we talked about our racing strategy with the coaches, we put our faith in their plan and executed it to the best of our ability.”

As a team, the Illini finished second overall out of 19 schools with 126 points as a team. Ohio State won the event with 105 points.

“Our training in the offseason put us in a really good spot going into the race,” Marasco said. “For me it was a big change, going from high school mileage to what I’m doing now. It was a long process. But overall, I think, as a team, our training went really well and helped us prepare for the start of the season.”

The Illini did exactly what they set out to do, starting started off the first mile of the race sticking together. In the early minutes of the race, sophomore Rebecca Craddock had set the tone for the Illini. Marasco ran in tandem with Craddock throughout the entire race, and they finished within five seconds of each other. Craddock finished 15th overall with a time of 17:51.8.

“Being able to finally race with all of my new teammates was exciting and nerve-racking at the same time,” Marasco said. “I wasn’t sure how things would go, trying to strategize with them, but once we got racing, we were all just able to lock in and focus. We focused on working each hill we had to run up in the course and took advantage of downhills and flat parts of the course. I feel like really putting emphasis on that helped us a lot.”

This is the second time the Illini have finished runner-up this year, after also doing so at the EIU Walt Crawford Open. Marasco believes that the two second-place finishes to start off is promising for the team going forward.

“We were extremely excited with the results today, but we still do have a lot of things we want to go back and work on,” Marasco said. “I definitely think we can get stronger as a team, and as we make progress, continue to push ourselves further and further. I feel like we’ll continue to get better as we run more races, so I’m excited to see what the rest of the season has in store for us.”

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