Men’s cross country to face tougher competition with Adidas Invitational

The month of September was quite favorable to the Illini men’s cross country team. Two team victories, along with numerous personal-best times, ensured that the team took care of business against inferior local teams.

But as the leaves change in October, so does the competition the Illini will be facing in the upcoming weeks.

The stiffer competition begins this Saturday in Madison, Wis., with the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational. Seven nationally ranked teams are a part of the field, as well as seven Big Ten teams.

Men’s cross country coach Wendel McRaven expressed excitement to be competing against tougher squads from around the country.

“It’s a chance for us to see how we stack up and what kind of competitors we got,” McRaven said. “We’ve got a bit of a chip on our shoulders going against these teams.”

Leading the way once again for the Illini will be junior Colin Mickow. After placing second at the Illinois Intercollegiate Championships and recording a personal-best in the 8K, Mickow was named Co-Big Ten Runner of the Week last week and was gracious in being awarded such an honor.

“It’s definitely a good thing that I’m getting the attention of the Big Ten,” Mickow said.

The junior will have the opportunity to garner even more attention in the Big Ten on Saturday and he is fully aware of the race he needs to run in order to achieve more recognition.

“I want to go out around the front and try to stay with the guys up there and it’ll be a good experience running on a Big Ten course,” Mickow said. “There’s seven Big Ten teams there, so it will be cool to see how we match up this early in the season.”

The Illini will look to bolster their lineup going into Saturday with the additions of seniors Mike Murray and Jeremy Stevens. Both suffered injuries earlier this season and have been eased back into racing shape gradually throughout September. Now that they are healthy, the seniors hope to provide leadership and depth to a team hoping to surprise the conference.

“I’ve been here for a few years, and we have just matured so much,” Murray said. “Based on the workouts and based on those meet performances, I think we’re going to surprise some people.”

McRaven echoed the sentiment about workouts and hoped that his team could rise to the occasion on Saturday.

“They’ve looked great in training and the workouts have been awesome,” McRaven said. “I couldn’t ask for more.”

“We want to prove that we’re a team that can compete on the national level and this is a great opportunity for that,” McRaven added.