Women’s cross country sprints to first place at Illini Open; men’s participates in first home meet

By Claire O'Brien, Staff Writer

Women

The Illinois women’s cross country team won the Illini Open Friday, also the team’s first and only home meet of the season. Haveman said the team has made a lot of progress this season, and it showed during the Open.

“To put together a group of (our) ladies and have them to show up and run how we run a race, I think that speaks hugely about where our program is headed,” Haveman said.

Junior Grace Rogers led the Illini with a time of 18:47.3, and the Illini’s top-five runners finished within 32.8 seconds of each other to secure the win. Rogers said the close team split is a strategy the Illini emphasizes.

“(We) remind each other, ‘let’s run together,’” Rogers said. “The close split was part of our training and what we have in mind going into every race.”

Rogers also said running on campus strongly impacted her performance, and had better knowledge of the course, especially since the team runs at the Arboretum during the week.

Rogers said this season the team is closer off the course than in years past, which has been a factor in their success this season.

“I think the closer our team’s become, it’s really showing in how we race,” Rogers said.

Haveman thought the support helped boost Illinois to its victory Friday.

“You have teammates out here watching teammates,” Haveman said. “They were given opportunities to race hard, and they seized their opportunities. We had a lot of personal records among that group.”

The Illini women compete next at the Big Ten Championship meet in Lincoln, Nebraska on Oct. 28.

“(We have) a lot more confidence in our abilities and how we’re going to do as a team,” Rogers said. “We’re more competitive than ever, and looking forward to Big Tens.”

Men

The Illini had strong performances from freshman Luke Goebel and redshirt sophomore Jack Lalonde at the Illini Open on Friday. Goebel led the Illini with a time of 26:43.3, as both shared a close spread, finishing within 20 seconds of each other.

Haveman said the team ran two runners but had several athletes compete on the home course unattached.

“We are working through some depth issues, which we’ll address in the next couple years,” Haveman said. “We redshirted some of our top guys, so some of them raced today.”

Senior Jesse Reiser was one of the team members who redshirted this year. He won the men’s race in 24:48.6, but ran unattached to keep his redshirt status.

“We’re taking the time this fall to address some of his needs, and really set him up for the fifth year he deserved and earned,” Haveman said.

Since the team only ran two runners, the Illini didn’t score. Other teams had the same strategy; and in the final results, out of the nine teams that competed, only four teams had an overall score. Iowa was scheduled to run but did not race.

Goebel ran at the UI Arboretum competitively for the first time this season and said he enjoyed being able to finally race at home.

“It’s always a great honor to put on the U of I uniform,” Goebel said. “To race here at home was just a privilege, and it was really enjoyable to be around the hometown.”

Being able to race at home for the first and only time this season was a good change of pace, according to Haveman.

“I think there’s a comfort level on our course,” Haveman said. “A huge part of it is I believe that the University of Illinois does a wonderful job with home events.”

Nevertheless, the team is feeling optimistic heading away from campus to the Big Ten Championship meet this weekend.

“Everybody has room to improve in their races, and we all look good, so I think it should be a good race for us,” Goebel said.

The Big Ten Championships will be on Oct. 28 in Lincoln, NE.