Men's Cross Country, Track & Field
NCAA Qualifier Looks to Lead Youthful Illini

Hebert looks to qualify for the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive year.
Hebert looks to qualify for the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive year.

Oct. 2, 2012

By Thomas Curtis, Illinois Sports Information

As the collegiate cross country season gets in to full swing, the Illini look to have a successful start to their season under the leadership of their upperclassmen. This year however, there are only two seniors on the team, making each contribution to the team that much more important. Jordan Hebert, a senior from York, Ill., feels that he is ready to take on the responsibility, despite it being a different position for him.

"It feels strange," Hebert said. "Coming in, I was the only freshman of my class and now I'm the only true senior. My first two years here I was the only kid my age and everyone was older than me, now it's a role reversal. I look forward to it because I do have the experience that some of the guys will develop in the next few years."

As one of only two seniors, Hebert has to be a leader for the younger members of the team. Coming into his last season, Hebert is excited about the opportunity to influence the younger guys on the team.

"I try to show up, have a good attitude, lead by example and try to give the underclassmen advice," Hebert said. "It's good to have another person's opinion on the team in order to help you grow as a runner."

Apart from his leadership role, Hebert has goals that he wants to accomplish this season.

"Individually, I made it individually to the NCAA Championships but I really want to get our whole team there," Hebert said. "I would also like to earn All-American and All-Big Ten honors."

Last season, Hebert finished second for the Illini and 17th overall (31:40.64) at the Midwest Regional Championships and was right on the cusp of qualifying for the national meet. The All-Region runner had to leave Dekalb, Ill., not knowing if he would join teammate Jim Riddle at the national meet a week later.

"I felt relaxed," Hebert said. "At the beginning of the year I didn't think I could qualify. We hadn't had someone who achieved the feat in a few years so as the realization it could be possible got more real, I tried to keep the same mindset. A race is a race."

Oklahoma State and Oklahoma automatically qualified for the NCAA meet as a team, finishing one and two, respectively. Later that night, the third (Tulsa) and fourth place (Minnesota) teams also advanced as at large-bids. Based on the teams advancing, that gave Hebert the opportunity to qualify for the 2011 NCAA Championships. Hebert and Riddle were the second duo in school history to make it to the NCAA Championships in the same year. Hebert looks back at the accomplishment.

"It was pretty special," Hebert said. "I was happy I had my teammate, Jim to go with me. It's pretty rare to have a duo qualify for the championships and to be only the second pair to achieve that made it even better. Anytime you can make it to the national meet, it's pretty neat."

Looking forward to the rest of the season, Hebert is focused and taking steps to return to the NCAA meet in the middle of November.

"I'm trying to just focus on running and not make it a huge mental game," Hebert said. "I know that if I show up everyday, try my best and do everything right, good things will happen."

The 2012 cross country season is still young, but for Hebert and the Illini, the goal remains the same regardless of class, to qualify a team to nationals. The orange and blue squad have a strong leader in Hebert, whose experience leads the youthful team into the rest of the season.