The Fighting Illini are back in action this weekend as they travel to South Bend, Ind., for the Notre Dame Invitational on Friday, Sept. 28. The orange and blue will run in the five mile blue race at 4 p.m. Twenty-one teams will be competing, with more than half being nationally ranked, making it the deepest competition the Illini have faced this season.
COACH STEWART ON THE MEET
"I expect us to compete to the fullest of our capability," Stewart said. "This weekend is the first big invitational a lot of these guys have raced in. We want to go in with a race plan that will allow us to be successful and stick to it. If we do that, we will have the outcome we want to have."
ILLINI SET TO RUN
Eight runners will compete this weekend as seniors Jordan Hebert and Hunter Mickow will be making their season debuts, while Ian Barnett and Paul Zeman, the Orange and Blue's number one and two runners in the past race, are set to compete. Hebert led the Illini at the Big Ten Championships and also qualified for the NCAA Championships by finishing 17th overall at the Midwest Regional and capturing All-Region honors.
LOOK AT THE COMPETITION
The Illini will face the toughest competition of the season yet, as 11 of the top 30 teams are nationally ranked with two receiving votes. Florida State leads the competing field at No. 10, while NC State and Texas A&M check in at No. 11 and 14, respectively. Illinois will also race against two Big Ten teams in No. 26 Michigan and Ohio State who are receiving votes in the national poll.
LAST TIME OUT
Two weeks ago, the Fighting Illini finished second at the Illinois Intercollegiate on Friday. The Illini finished with a total of 72 points, as four of the top 20 overall finishers sported orange and blue. Redshirt freshman Ian Barnett led the way for the Illini and finished fifth overall, with a 8K time of 24:45. Teammate Paul Zeman crossed the line with a time of 25:15 and placed 11th overall. Joe McAsey finished four spots later, coming in 15th overall and third for the Illini with a time of 25:18.
The Orange and Blue will have a weekend off but will return to action in two weeks as the squad is split between two races. The majority of the squad will compete in the Wisconsin adidas Invitational while others will race in the Bradley Open, both taking place on Friday, Oct. 12.