Poor Big Ten finishes motivates women’s cross-country at regionals

By Michal Dwojak

The Illinois women’s cross-country team will use its finish at the Big Ten Championships as motivation at the NCAA Midwest Regional meet this Friday.

“We were disappointed with our finish at Big Tens,” sophomore Amanda Fox said. “We plan on using this disappointment to push us to compete at regionals.”

Head coach Scott Jones had hoped his team would finish in the middle of the competition at the Big Tens; however, the Illini finished ninth. The meet was the prime opportunity for his runners to demonstrate the hard work they had put into each practice and meet.

Jones has emphasized that the team needs to run a complete race in three stages: A strong start to gain good position, maintaining that position during the middle of the race, and finishing with a strong effort for the win. The Illini started with a good start and were able to maintain a strong position, but they did not finish strong.

The Illini learned a lot from their experience at Big Tens, especially the younger runners.

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“It was exciting and nervous,” freshman Audrey Blazek said. “Everyone was focused on that one goal, which was what made the meet so competitive.”

Practices have not been tiring, as the runners need to rest their legs after a long season of training. While one day consisted of a five-mile run and 400-yard runs repeated in a cycle, the team has been tapering and taking it easy for the most part. They also ran many 200s to strengthen each runner’s finish. As they did this, Jones yelled, “No one beats Illinois in the final 200,” motivating his team to push through.

Although the team is tapering, the location of practices has not changed. Apart from lightning or ice on the ground, they continue to run outside, even with the temperatures reaching 20 degrees this past week.

The team will have seven runners compete: seniors Katie Porada and Stephanie Morgan, junior Rachel Irion, redshirt sophomore Alyssa Schneider, sophomore Amanda Fox and freshmen Hanna Winter and Audrey Blazek.

Jones is looking for season-bests from all of his runners. He expects two or three runners, Alyssa Schneider and Katie Porada for example, to qualify for the NCAA Nationals meet next Saturday. Jones also expects to bring home two or three All-Regional awards, which go to those finishing in the top-25.

“We’re healthy, we’re fit, we’re rested,” Jones said. “The place is set for the best race of the season.”

Michal can be reached at [email protected] and @bennythebull94.