Senior Tara Mendozza
hopes for a top-five
finish this weekend.
Nov. 11, 1999
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The University of Illinois hosts the NCAA Regional Cross Country Meet on Saturday, November 13th at the UI Blue Golf Course in Savoy, Illinois. Over 400 athletes from throughout the midwest will race, as 31 schools, 28 in the men's and 29 in the women's, will be competing. The men's 10-K race will start at 11:00 a.m., followed at noon by the women's 5-K race.
"Hosting this meet points out that cross country is an important sport at Illinois," men's head coach Gary Wieneke said.
The last time UI hosted the Regional Meet was 1996. Women's coach Michelle Byrne is looking forward to coaching her first regional meet since her arrival at Illinois.
"It is fun to be involved in something of this magnitude," Byrne said. "It draws attention to our program."
Wieneke Looking For Team To Come Together
The men's race features #19 Minnesota, the only ranked team in the men's race and the region's top seed. Illinois will look to run tough against their Big Ten rivals as well as the rest of the field and slip into one of the top two spots to qualify for the NCAA Championships. Illinois will have to overcome a disappointing showing at the Big Ten Championships, but Wieneke has faith in his squad.
"From day one, this race has been our focal point," the overturn coach of 33-years said. "There is some chance for some redemption for the Big Ten Championships."
Senior standouts Scott McClennan and Jon Russell hope this won't be their final race for the Illini. Wieneke feels that if the squad can come together, then qualifying for nationals isn't out of capabilities for these harriers.
"We should be ready to go," Wieneke said. "Our workouts have been crisp and good. We know the course better than anyone. We need to come together and go attack the race as a team."
Women See Meet As Big Opportunity
For the women, there is plenty of opportunity to show their stuff. Leading the charge is Tara Mendozza. The senior is running what could be her last cross country race wearing the orange and blue. However, the middle-distance track star isn't ready to hang up her cross country spikes up just yet. Mendozza will get one more chance on her home course, a course where she has produced her fastest collegiate times.
"She has aspirations of a top five finish, which would qualify her to nationals." Byrne said. "I feel she has a better race left in her. This is her last opportunity to leave her legacy as a cross country runner. She had seemed very focused and determined all week."
Byrne is also expecting freshman Cececlia Williams to finish her first collegiate cross country campaign strong.
"Williams is a tough competitor," Byrne said. "Even as a freshman, she has the mentality of being a big time competitor. She has the ability to perform well."
Qualifying as a team will be a big challenge for the Illini as four nationally ranked teams in the 29-team field will by vying for two spots. The ranked teams are #7 Kansas St., #16 Minnesota, #21 Missouri and #23 Nebraska.