Illinois women’s cross-country team finishes 8th, Schneider qualifies for nationals

By Michal Dwojak

Sophomore Alyssa Schneider finished fifth overall and qualified for the NCAA national meet as the Illinois women’s cross-country team placed eighth in a field of 30 at the NCAA Midwest Regional meet on Friday.

“I’m really happy and excited for Alyssa,” head coach Scott Jones said. “She ran a smart and tenacious race. She put herself in a great position, and then really finished strongly in the last third of the race.”

Schneider finished with a time of 20 minutes, 25 seconds at the meet, which was held in Ames, Iowa. She shaved off 31 seconds to make this her personal-best 6-kilometer time, which is the fourth fastest time in school history. This is Schneider’s first career qualification for the Nationals meet and the highest finish for an Illini since Angela Bizzarri won the individual crown in 2009. 

The Illini’s eighth-place finish was their best finish in the meet since that same year. Two of the 30 teams are nationally ranked.

During the week leading up to the meet, Jones emphasized how the team had been disappointed in its finish in the Big Ten Championships. Jones said how important it was to run a complete race, and that he felt his team had run the best meet of the entire season.

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“We responded well to the disappointment of the Big Ten meet,” Jones said. “We’ve done a great job in practice the past two weeks and came to the regional meet with a purpose. We raced really well, and I was really pleased with our execution.”

Sophomore Amanda Fox finished second for the Illini and 38th overall after taking eight seconds off her 6K time to finish a personal-best 21:25. Senior Katie Porada (21:45) crossed the finish line next to place 61st overall. Freshman Hanna Winter (21:54) and senior Stephanie Morgan (21:59) rounded out the scoring for the Illini, finishing 80th and 91st respectively.

Junior Rachel Irion (22:21) finished 115th, while freshman Audrey Blazek (23:01) finished 159th in her first regionals meet. 

No. 7 Iowa State won the meet for the fourth consecutive year, while No. 16 Minnesota finished second. Iowa State’s Crystal Nelson won the individual crown with a time of 20:12. 

Jones remains optimistic about his team as they put on a strong effort. He believes that the future for the cross-country program looks bright, and hopes that this momentum will swing to the track and field season.

“We have girls with NCAA talent, and now I think we can start to believe in the reality of making that happen.” Jones said.

Alyssa Schneider will now prepare for the NCAA nationals meet this Saturday in Terre Haute, Ind.

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