Toepfer disappointed with finish at nationals

By Thomas Donley

Looking to improve upon his 64th-place finish last season, Illinois senior Jannis Toepfer finished his cross-country career by placing 115th out of 253 in the NCAA National Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., on Saturday. The Bochum, Germany, native finished the 10-kilometer race in 31 minutes and 25 seconds.

“Today wasn’t my day,” said Toepfer, who came into the race hoping to gain All-American status by finishing in the top 40.

Cold temperatures, wind and mud affected Toepfer in the race, combatting his long strides and making it hard for him to get into a good rhythm.

“He’s had a great season and a really tremendous career,” Illinois head coach Jake Stewart said in a press release. “I told Jannis after the race that he’s done more for the program in two years than a lot of guys could do in four or five years. He’s had a great career, and he’s been incredibly good for this program. It’s tough to see him go, but he’s certainly capable of coming back and doing well in indoor and outdoor track.”

Toepfer qualified for nationals for the second straight year by placing third in the Midwest regional with a time of 30:31, four seconds behind his best time and three seconds away from first place. He earned All-Region recognition for his efforts in that race. At least one Illinois runner has competed at nationals in each of the last three years.

Before regionals, Toepfer led Illinois to a fifth-place finish at Big Tens, placing sixth and earning All-Big Ten accolades for the second time in as many years.

Toepfer led the Illini in every meet in which he competed in 2013, including the Wisconsin adidas Invitational, where he clocked an 8K time of 23:50, his personal best at that distance and good for fourth-best in school history.

“This season, until today, was pretty good, in retrospect,” Toepfer said. “I’m just really happy to have the chance to train with the team all the time, go to nationals, and be around the guys.”

Toepfer said he hopes to continue to teach the younger Illinois runners, nearly all of whom are either freshman or sophomores, to reach their potential. He feels they can be successful in the future.

Toepfer will run long distance in indoor and outdoor track in the spring for Illinois before graduating.

No. 3 Colorado won the team title, upsetting No.1 Northern Arizona and No.2 Oklahoma State, which finished second and third, respectively. Big Ten squads No. 20 Indiana and No.17 Wisconsin finished ninth and 10th, respectively. Oregon freshman Edward Creek took the individual title with a time of 29:41, 18 seconds ahead of the second place finisher.

Thomas can be reached at [email protected]