Men’s cross-country heads to Notre Dame Invitational

The Illinois men’s cross-country team will run competitively for the first time in three weeks as it takes part in the Notre Dame Invitational at the University of Notre Dame Golf Course in South Bend, Ind., on Friday, Oct. 4. The Illini will run in the men’s Blue division, starting at 5 p.m. The women’s team will also be running at this event, starting at 4:15 p.m. in the women’s Blue Division.

The Blue Division races are the true competitive races at the event and are for top Division I teams only.

Illinois has not competed since Sept. 13 at Purdue’s Big Ten Preview in West Lafayette, Ind., where the team finished fourth, paced by junior Brendan McDonnell, who finished ninth overall in the men’s 8 kilometer run with a time of 25:12.0. Sophomores Sam Telfer and Paul Zeman finished 13th and 14th, respectively.

Thanks to the long layoff between competitions, the team has had time to rest and prepare for this weekend’s race.

“This being the first competitive race of the year, in this sort of environment, sometimes it’s kind of a shock to race at this level if you haven’t done so,” Illinois head coach Jake Stewart said, “We’ve done a lot in practice to try to negate any of those rust-busting type scenarios that we need to take care of.”

This will be the first time that Illinois has had its full team together for a race this season. Coach Stewart is looking forward to having the group that will race together in the postseason all on the course at once.

Of the 28 men’s teams slated to take part in the Blue division race, nine are ranked nationally in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross-Country Coaches’ Association (USTFCCCA) poll as of Oct. 1, with No. 7 Tulsa the highest-ranked team in the field. The other ranked teams competing are No. 9 Princeton, No. 16 Colorado State, No. 21 New Mexico, No. 22 Notre Dame, No. 24 Virginia, No. 26 Florida State, No. 29 Michigan and No. 30 Columbia. Illinois, which earlier this season was ranked for the first time in fifteen years, recently fell out of the top 30 after being idle for three weeks.

“It’s a competitive field across the board,” said Stewart, “We’re more concerned with just making sure we do the things we’ve got to do.”

Thomas can be reached at [email protected]