Illini finish 12th at Notre Dame Invitational

The Illini men’s cross-country team took 12th place out of 27 teams at the Notre Dame Invitational on Friday at the University of Notre Dame Golf Course in South Bend, Ind.

Illinois finished the five-mile race with 333 points, 220 points behind the winner, No. 30 Columbia. Tulsa, the highest ranked team coming into the meet, finished second, while unranked teams Minnesota and Southern Utah both finished in the top 10, taking fourth and ninth, respectively. The race was the first event Illinois has run in since taking fourth place at Purdue’s Big Ten Preview on Sept. 13.

Illini senior Jannis Toepfer paced his team with a time of 24:36, good enough for sixth overall. Toepfer finished roughly 14 seconds behind winner Anthony Rotich of UTEP. Other top times for Illinois were Liam Markham’s 24:55, good for 26th place, and Brenden McDonnell’s 25:45, which landed him in 95th place. Redshirt freshman Will Brewster came in 100th, 12 seconds behind McDonnell, at 25:47.

“(The race did not go) as well as we would’ve hoped,” Illinois head coach Jake Stewart said. “We had a kid go down, and that halted some of our momentum.”

About two miles into the race, Illinois sophomore Ian Barnett went down with an injury and was unable to finish the race. Stewart said Barnett was running among the leaders at the time of his injury.

“It’s tough to say (what we could improve on) after this race,” Stewart said, “because we didn’t run a complete race, but we’re in very good shape, and we’ve got some guys who are capable of running long races.”

Despite the team’s rather disappointing finish, Stewart still recognized his team’s individual efforts.

“I was very pleased with the way Jannis and Liam ran up front,” Stewart said. “Those two guys are really solid for us.”

The Illini now face another long layoff before their next race, giving them a chance to heal their injuries and get closer to full health. The next time Illinois competes, it will have events on back-to-back days. The Illini are scheduled to run in the Bradley Classic at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill., on Oct. 18, and they will also run the next day in the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational in Madison, Wisc.

Thomas can be reached at [email protected]