Illinois men’s cross country gets roster set heading into Big Ten Championships

Things were not exactly going to plan for junior cross country runner Jared Richardson midway through Friday’s Illini Open in Urbana.

Coming into the meet, he had been battling chronic ankle problems and finished in a less-than-stellar time at the Bradley Classic the week before. By the halfway point of Friday’s meet, Richardson dropped from the lead pack of runners.

In the third mile of the 8K (4.97 miles) race, though, the lone upperclassman running for the Illini picked up his pace and worked his way to the front en route to a second-place finish. Illinois took first in the three-team meet with 16 points.

“It is very important to stay positive because at every point in a race, you think of every negative thing possible,” Richardson said. “At one point in the race, I counted that I was about 12 to 13 seconds in back of the leaders, and I kept telling myself, ‘Common, you can do this, you got this.'”

Sophomore Nathan Bohne finished first overall with a time of 26:07, and Richardson and sophomore Eric Johannigmeier followed, rounding out the three Illini who will join the team’s top runners at next week’s Big Ten Championships. Freshman Jordan Hebert placed fourth and was followed by sophomore Phil Pompei, who finished sixth. Sophomore Kyle Engnell was the last Illini to cross the finish line, taking 12th place.

“I thought (the race) was a lot of fun,” Bohne said. “Winning the race is a good confidence booster going into next week’s meet.”

Head coach Wendel McRaven also enjoyed watching his team compete against Illinois State and Illinois Wesleyan.

“Jo Jo (Johannigmeier) and Richardson was a bit of a surprise, and Nathan Bohne always sets high expectations for himself,” McRaven said. “Jared is a heck of a competitor. This will definitely help us clear up the picture on who will travel to the Big Ten Championships.”

Sophomore Dan Kremske and the rest of the Illini said they are ready to welcome the three newest members of the team’s travel roster for next week’s Big Ten Championships.

“This is what we have been training for the entire season,” Kremske said. “The conditions were not ideal, but these guys really stepped up. I am definitely excited to see how they contribute next week.”