2012 Men's Cross Country Season in Review
Dec. 10, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- After making great strides in the 2011-12 cross country and track seasons, the 2012 Fighting Illini men's cross country team set its sights high for the 2012 season. With a group filled of mostly underclassmen, first year head coach Jake Stewart viewed this season as one unique from previous years, however the goals remained big.
The season started out on the right foot for the Illini, taking home their eighth consecutive Illini Challenge title in their first meet of the year. Five of the top finishers were sporting Orange and Blue, led by freshman Tommy King. King's 6K time of 18:41 was good enough for second in what was a very close finish. The Illini continued their early season success with a second place finish at the Illinois Intercollegiate Championships. Ian Barnett led the squad, finishing fifth-place overall with an 8K time of 24:25.
A few weeks later, at the Notre Dame Invitational, the Illini faced what was their toughest competition of the year up to that point. Senior Hunter Mickow led the Illini with a five mile time of 24:13 and crossed the finish line in 24th place. Mickow was followed closely by teammate Jannis Topfer, who finished with a time of 24:17 and placed 27th overall. The Illini would finish 14th as a team at the meet, gaining valuable experience for the youthful squad.
The Illini would split up for their next meets, when the starting seven headed to the Wisconsin adidas Invitational while the rest of the team competed at the Bradley Classic. Illinois would face strong competition for the second meet in a row at the adidas Invitational. Once again, Hunter Mickow led the Illini with an 8K time of 23:58, finishing in 43rd overall. Illinois' performance earned them 24th place overall, finishing above 21 other schools at the meet. At the Bradley Classic, redshirt-freshman Sam Telfer paced the Illini with an 8K time of 24:58, coming in 19th overall.
Only two Illini would race in Orange and Blue vests at the Illinois Open, sophomore Mark Donohue and redshirt-freshman David Eckhart. Donohue would finish third with an 8K time of 26:02. Eckhart finished just three seconds behind his teammate, taking fourth with an 8K time of 26:05. Donohue's finish earned him a spot on the team's Big Ten roster, which was his first appearance in the conference meet.
At the Big Ten Championships, the Illini put up their best performance in 16 years. Illinois finished with 86 points, which earned them 4th in the Big Ten. Jannis Topfer led the Illini, placing ninth overall with the 10th-fastest time in school history and a personal-best 8K time of 24:06. Hunter Mickow finished right behind Topfer, crossing the finish line in 10th place with an 8K time of 24:07. Both runners earned second-team All-Big Ten honors for their finishes.
The Illini performed great at the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships, finishing fourth overall which was the teams highest finish at the meet since 2002. The duo of Mickow and Topfer finished one-two for the fourth time this season as Mickow paced the Illini with a 10K time of 30:29, crossing the finish line in 6th-place overall. Topfer would finish the course in 30:40 to earn 13th-place overall. Both Mickow and Topfer earn All-Region honors for their finishes and earned their way individually into the NCAA Championship meet. This marked the second consecutive year that two Illini runners would compete at the national meet.
In what was their first NCAA Championships, Mickow and Topfer represented the Illini well and set personal bests at the 10K distance. Mickow would complete the course in 30:12, which earned him a 46th overall finish, just six places away from earning All-America status. Topfer also ran a great race, finishing 64th overall with a time of 30:27.
The 2012 men's cross country team achieved many of the goals they set out at the beginning of the season, including finishing the highest at Big Ten Championships in 16 years and sending two individuals to the NCAA Championships for the second consecutive year. With such a young team, the future of Illinois cross country is bright.