Women’s cross country takes on challenging meet this weekend

By Ashleigh Lefevre, Contributing Writer

The Illinois women’s cross country team will attend its fourth meet of the season at the Bradley Pink Classic at Newman Golf Course in Peoria, Illinois Friday. The women’s 6K will take place at 1 p.m., the first of five races throughout the day.

Coming off a successful team and individual outing at the Loyola Lakefront Invitational, placing fourth overall, head coach Sarah Haveman is excited about the challenges the Bradley meet will bring.

“It’s a solid meet, so we have great competition,” Havemen said. “We will have to get out there, establish ourselves early on and see who we can knock off.”

Hosting a field of 41 schools ranging from Division I to Division III, the Bradley Pink Classic will provide the Illini women with the opportunity to compete in their biggest meet yet.

While the Lakefront Invitational’s top three — Princeton, Grand Valley and Ohio State — will be absent from Friday’s race, the field will be composed of Midwestern powerhouses: No. 2 Minnesota, No. 10 Bradley and No. 12 Northern Illinois.

After a solid individual performance at the Loyola meet, where she placed 18th overall and second for the Illini, sophomore Allison McGrath is also excited about the larger field at Bradley.

“With lots of Power Five and Big Ten schools there that are super competitive, we just want to be really competitive with them and show them our development and improvement,” McGrath said.

The Illini also have geography on their side, with Bradley University being 90 miles from Champaign, as compared to previous meets across the country.

However, Haveman said the team’s success on Friday will depend upon its ability to stay consistent and execute.

“Though it’s nice to be closer to home, our approach in terms of who we are and what we focus on remains consistent,” Haveman said. “Execution means being, of course, to focus on consistency, but also to continue to build upon one another, running closer to one another and finding one another during races.”

Sophomore McGrath said the team will go into Friday with the same strategy and race plan as always.

“We are just going to do the same thing we have been doing: putting ourselves out there and being aggressive at the beginning of races,” she said.

Heading into the Bradley Pink Classic, the Illini have been elevated to the No. 7 ranking in the Midwest region, per the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association’s regional polls.

“I’m just excited to see how we improve from Loyola,” McGrath said. “I know we had a really good result from there, but I also know that there’s lots more left in the tank.”

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