Cross country coach Jeremy Rasmussen and the No. 14 Illini head to the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships on Saturday.
Nov. 13, 2008
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - After a fourth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships, the No. 14 Illinois women's cross country team approaches the next stage in the championship portion of its season in competing this weekend at the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships in Stillwater, Okla.
The women's 6K race is set for an 11 a.m. start on Saturday, Nov. 15 at the Oklahoma State Cross Country Course, with the men's 10K race to follow.
The Orange and Blue look to add to a building tradition over the past few years as they placed first at the regional championships in 2005 and second in both 2006 and 2007. The top two teams from each of the nine regions receive automatic bids to the NCAA Championships.
"Our goal is to go into Regionals and be a top-two team in order to set ourselves up for Nationals," cross country coach Jeremy Rasmussen said. "We want to try and continue to build on our tradition of success and eventually solidify ourselves as one of the top teams in the nation."
Ranked second in the Midwest Region for the duration of the season, the Illini will face four other nationally ranked opponents on Saturday. A close race is expected with No. 7 Minnesota, which recently won the Big Ten championship and is the defending regional champion. No. 20 Iowa and No. 29 Nebraska round out the ranked squads in the field.
First-team All-Big Ten honorees Katie Engel and Angela Bizzarri will lead the Orange and Blue this weekend as they have throughout the season, and are each threats to win the individual title. Both have earned All-Midwest Region honors the past two years, with Bizzarri finishing runner-up at the meet in both 2006 and 2007. Freshman Kristin Sutherland will also be an asset on Saturday, as she was the Illini's third runner at the Big Ten Championships.
"Practices have been going really well over the last two weeks," Rasmussen said. "We want to go into this weekend with the mindset that we need to take care of business and get it done with the least amount of energy and mental energy as possible. If we do that, we can come back nine days later and get after it at the NCAA Championships."
The NCAA Championships will be held on Monday, Nov. 24 in Terre Haute, Ind.