Illinois men’s cross-country finishes 28th at Wisconsin Adidas Invite

By Matt Gertsmeier

Illinois’ senior Jannis Toepher took a tumble Friday and Illinois did too. The Illini men’s cross-country team’s troubles at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational in Madison, Wis., began in the opening 800 meters when Toepher was tripped.

Toepher, an All-Big Ten runner last year, was aiming to stay in the front of the pack with the top runners, but his fall dropped him to nearly dead last.

Illinois finished 28th place out of 36 teams in the highly-competitive field containing 19 ranked schools. No. 6-ranked Syracuse took first place.

Toepher’s fall put him, and Illlinois, in a deep hole.

“All I remember was lying on the ground and seeing basically the entire field jumping over me,” Toepher said. “I tried to get up, but there were so many people coming that they ran into me and pushed me back down. All I could do was curl up on the ground and let everyone pass.”

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Despite Toepher’s tumble, he still finished second overall among Illini and took 107th place overall in the meet with a time of 24 minutes, 40 seconds.

Seeing Toepher tripped and immediately get passed up set the tone for the rest of the Illini runners.

“That’s going to have a pretty big impact on how our day went,” head coach Jake Stewart said. “I don’t know if we responded as well as we would have liked to once we had a sense of what was going on with Jannis.”

Junior Ian Barnett finished with the best time for Illinois, running the race in 24:28. Barnett placed 72nd overall, while junior Paul Zeman and seniors Bryce Basting and Brendan McDonnell all finished beyond 150th place.

“I know how our preparation has gone and we were prepared to go out and run at a much higher level, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen and that’s the frustrating part about the sport,” Stewart said. “I know the guys are disappointed. I’m disappointed, but it’s not as though we’re not prepared to go out and run to our expectations.”

After the meet, Stewart thought his team needed to have a stronger sense of urgency during races.

“From the mental standpoint of it, we as a team need to have a sense of urgency to go out and run the way we are capable of running,” Stewart said. “We can’t just hope it happens, we have to make it happen.”

Illinois’ other group took seventh place in the 26-team field at the Bradley ‘Pink’ Classic on Friday. Sophomore Will Brewster finished 13th and had the best time for the Illini, completing the race in 25 minutes. Freshmen Garrett Lee and Alex Gold took 15th and 28th place respectively. Coming in 81st place for Illinois was sophomore Ryan Burgoon, who finished with a time of 26:04. Freshman Alex Notton finished the race in 112nd place in 26:28.

After not running to their expectations in Madison, the Illini are looking forward to improving and running its next race at a much higher level. Illinois’s next opportunity to race is Friday at the Illini Open.

“What we showed today is not what we are capable of doing,” Toepher said. “We need to be confident going into our next race.”

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