Men’s Cross Country Big Ten preview

By Jonah Pérez, Staff Writer

This weekend, Illinois men’s cross country travels to Nebraska for the Big Ten Championships. After having time off this past week, there was plenty of time to prepare.

“As a team, we are definitely the fittest we’ve been all year. The coaches have been really smart about having us peak at the right time,” freshman Colin Yandel said. “We’ve had a lot of good races this year, a lot of good competitions, so we’re all experienced with how to race and compete.”

Yandel said as a freshman, it’s been helpful to have veteran teammates around. They serve as role models and give the underclassmen extra confidence because experience is valuable in the sport, and they have plenty of it.

Head coach Sarah Haveman agreed with Yandal. She praised seniors Billy Magnesen and Dan Lathrop as perfect examples of how to act on and off the course.

But at the Big Ten Championship meet, the expectations are high, especially for the upperclassmen.

“We would like the returners to perform better than they ever have at this meet, and we expect our newcomers to perform at a very high level as well,” Haveman said.

The members of the team are comfortable with this expectation, and they said they have confidence to do well, even though they’re not at full strength.

“Without Jon Davis and Jesse Reiser, who are two of our key players, maybe we aren’t going to live up to our beginning-of-the-season goals,” Yandel said. “But you definitely succeed as a team if we all get out there and race to our potential.” 

According to the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, Wisconsin is No. 3, Purdue is No. 18, Indiana is No. 22, Michigan is No. 27 and Michigan State is No. 31.

The Illini know the championships will bring out the best the Big Ten has to offer, and they hope to run their best times so far.

“I don’t really know what to expect, this being my first year and all, but I’m expecting a lot of great competition as the Big Ten is one of the best running conferences in the nation, and I’m expecting to get out there and compete and try to run a fast time,” Yandel said. 

Yandel said it’s helpful to have stiff competition as a gauge for how far the Illini have come and what lies ahead.