Illini to run 2 races after 2-week layoff

After two weeks of inactivity, the Illinois men’s cross-country team will take part in the Bradley Pink Classic in Peoria, Ill., on Friday and the Adidas Invitational at Wisconsin on Saturday. The team is coming off a disappointing outing at Notre Dame on Oct. 4 in which they finished 12th overall, paced by senior Jannis Toepfer, who finished sixth with a time of 24 minutes, 36 seconds.

A contributing factor to the low finish at South Bend, Ind., for the Illini was sophomore Ian Barnett’s inability to finish the race due to an injury.

The injury will not keep Barnett out of the Adidas Invitational. Illini head coach Jake Stewart said his team is currently the healthiest it has been all season.

Junior Brendan McDonnell said the Illini have spent the two weeks since their last race pushing themselves and testing their conditioning with their sights set on Wisconsin.

“Everybody has bounced back from Notre Dame,” McDonnell said. “It’s one of those things where we just keep our heads up and look towards the next race.”

McDonnell is excited to compete this weekend for the first time since he finished 95th overall at Notre Dame with a time of 25:45.

Stewart’s team has used its previous meet as motivation to help it maintain focus during the layoff.

“It hasn’t been a problem for us after the way we ran at Notre Dame,” Stewart said. “We had a disappointing day, and our guys have been working hard since then to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”

The Bradley Pink Classic on Friday will be a part of Homecoming weekend at Bradley. All participants will wear pink jerseys in support of breast cancer awareness.

The men’s championship race will include 22 schools from around the Midwest.

Saturday’s field at Wisconsin will include 20 of the top-30 teams in the country, according to the most recent U.S. Track & Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association poll, as well as five other Big Ten rivals. In this race, Stewart will send out his postseason team of Toepfer, McDonnell, Barnett, sophomore Liam Markham, freshman Will Brewster, sophomore Tommy King and sophomore Paul Zeman.

“We were prepared going into Notre Dame, and for some reason it just didn’t materialize,” McDonnell said. “But this is our race, and I don’t really think anything can stop us right now.”

Thomas can be reached at [email protected]