The Daily Illini

Cast steps up for Illini with new personal best at Nuttycombe Invite

By Jared Farmer, Contributing writer

With a majority underclassmen team, Illinois women’s cross country has had one focus this season: growing both as runners and as a team.

Freshman Nicki Cast has served as the epitome of that goal, racking up several impressive races.

On Friday, Cast ran a mile pace of 6:04 to finish her first 6,000-meter race of her Illini career finishing with a time of 22:35. Cast’s 6:04 pace marks a new personal best for her, as she ran a second faster than her previous best at the Greater Louisville Classic.

Cast is used to running the 5,000-meter race, but she appeared unfazed by the extra 1,000 meters.

“Honestly, I thought it was going to be a lot different,” Cast said. “I thought it would feel so much longer but I didn’t even notice it until I saw the home stretch and different times.”

Cast also set a personal record last week, and her improvement throughout the season is anything but negligible. After finishing with a time of 19:02 in the 5,000-meter race at the Eastern Illinois Walt Crawford Open in her Illini debut, she shaved 12 seconds off her time to finish fourth for the Illini the following week at the Coast to Coast Battle in Beantown.

Cast has been positive about her and the rest of the team’s improving times.

“It always feels awesome to continue running faster,” Cast said. “I think it just shows that the training we’re doing is working, and everyone keeps improving, so it continues to be a huge confidence booster for me.”

In addition to recording her personal best time last weekend, Cast also came up huge scoring wise, finishing second for the Illini and 64th overall, en route to a sixth place finish as a team.

“It’s always awesome directly helping the team out by scoring points,” Cast said. “So to be one of the top runners to score was pretty great, and it felt even better knowing that everyone else had a great race too.”

Although she will not race in the Illini Open, the first and only home meet for the Illini this season, Cast and several other runners on the team have their sights set on the Big Ten Championships in Bloomington, Indiana, on Sunday, Oct. 29. Despite it being the first postseason meet of her college career, Cast remains confident in herself and the team going in.

“This past race was a huge confidence booster,” Cast said.

“I’ll be going into Big Ten’s knowing that I’m improving, and if we continue to run well, we’ll be prepared to race well and score well as a team too.”

@jaredefarmer

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