Basting leads cross-country to 7th-place finish

By Matt Gertsmeier

Bryce Basting has competed in many races during his collegiate career. Saturday, however, was different. For Basting, Saturday’s race was his first-ever wearing the Illinois orange and blue.

Basting, a transfer from Eastern Illinois, finished second for the Illini and 20th overall in the Roy Griak Invitational in Minneapolis, helping the Illinois men’s cross country team to finish seventh place in a 31 team race.

“It’s been a pretty good transition,” the senior said. “I knew a few of the guys coming over and they are really accommodating.”

Basting finished with a time of 25 minutes, 27 seconds in Saturday’s 8K race.

“It’s probably Bryce’s best cross-country race of his collegiate career,” head coach Jake Stewart said. “He executed our race plan perfectly. He really moved well in those last 2,000 meters.”

Along with Basting, Illinois received solid finishes from juniors Paul Zeman in 25:55 and Ian Barnett in 26:08. Senior Jannis Toepfer was Illinois’ top finisher, placing sixth overall in the race with a time of 24:57.

“I’ve only been back and running for five or six weeks, so considering that, I’m pretty happy at where I’m at and how the race played out,” Toepfer said.

In Saturday’s meet, Southern Utah took first place. Illinois ran against four top-30 ranked cross-country programs. No. 27 Iowa State took fifth place with a total of 162 points and No. 24 Texas finished sixth with 215 points. Scoring 230 points, Illinois captured seventh place, 72 points better than No. 19 ranked North Carolina, which took ninth place Saturday.

“We beat a top-20 nationally ranked team, we were 50 points behind another top-25 nationally ranked team and it was on a day where I certainly don’t think we ran our best race,” Stewart said. “It was probably the best season opener that I’ve had here at the University in my three years.”

On a particularly warm day on a course containing rolling hills, Illinois relied on a practice run of the course for preparation.

“It’s very challenging, it’s not only physically but also mentally draining,” Toepfer said. “But, we knew what to expect.”

Even with a trial run before Saturday’s meet, the warm weather combined with a difficult course might have contributed to a slight drop in performance for the runners.

“You look at the race times, it was significantly slower in years past,” Stewart said. “It’s a tough course. There’s a lot of rolling hills and a lot of uneven footing.”

Regardless of the difficulties that challenged Illinois in Saturday’s meet, the team feels confident looking ahead in the season.

“I’m really encouraged where we are at,” Stewart said. “We’re going in the right direction.”

With the Roy Griak Invitational in the books for Illinois, the team now turns its focus to the approaching meets of the season.

“Louisville next week will be a great day to get some other people involved in racing, and then we will put the pieces together for Wisconsin,” Toepfer said.

For Basting, his focus as of now is on his adjustment to running for Illinois.

“I’m still getting used to orange and blue, but I think it’s a pretty good fit.”

Matt Gertsmeier can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @MattGertsmeier.