Senior Stacy Hague finished first for the Illini at the Big Ten Championships and the NCAA Regional meet.
Dec. 20, 2011
The Illinois Fighting Illini women's cross country team wrapped up its 2011 season at the NCAA Midwest Regional that took place in DeKalb, Ill. The youthful Illini squad ran four freshmen and five sophomores over the course of the year. Four of those underclassmen - freshmen Colette Falsey and Britten Petrey and sophomore's Meghan Frigo and Katie Porada - earned spots on the Illini's Big Ten Championship roster. This was head coach Jeremy Rasmussen's second time running two freshmen in Big Tens since his first year at Illinois in 2007.
"Fortunately or unfortunately we can take a lot away from this season," Rasmussen said. "I think the one thing that we discussed after the season with the group was we were missing some leaders. I think that was one of the biggest things that affected our performances out on the course."
The Illini started off the year with a round of top-three finishes taking third in the Illini Challenge, first in the Bradley Open and second in the Orange and Blue Preview. Junior Madeline Aufmann took first place at the Bradley Open marking the first individual crown of her career. The Illini also had three other members finish in the top four with Porada, Frigo and Falsey taking second, third and fourth, respectively.
From there, the Illini carried their success into Chicago to take fourth at the Sean Earl Lakefront Invitational. Frigo, who ran a personal-best 5K time of 17:59, led the squad. The race also marked the season debut of junior Courtney Yaeger who ran the course in a 5K time of 18:06 and finished second for the Orange and Blue.
Two weeks later, the Illini split up to compete in the Wisconsin adidas Invitational and the Bradley Classic. In a field of over 300 runners, the Fighting Illini turned in a strong effort at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational. Frigo led the Illini for her third consecutive meet of the year as the team finished 44th. The Illini also had two runners competing in the `B' race at the Invitational, as freshman Chloe Schmidt finished 89th and sophomore Meagan Hynes completed the race, placing 92nd overall. All three runners who ran at the Bradley Classic set either a personal or season best record. Sophomore Megumi Hoshi (23:19) and junior Michelle Stratton (24:00) finished 93rd and 137th, respectively, both setting new personal 6K records. Sophomore Meghan Murphy crossed the line with a season-best 6K time of 23:27.
The Illini took third place at the fourth annual Illini Open. The Orange and Blue were led by junior Amber Stack who ran unattached but still managed to set a new personal-best 5K with a time of 18:10. Two other Illini, Hynes and Murphy placed inside the top 11.
The UI Arboretum hosted the Big Ten Championships for Illinois' final meet within the conference. Senior Stacy Hague led the Illini and improved her season-best finish as the Fighting Illini finished 12th. In their conference race debuts, Falsey finished third for the team along with Petrey finishing fifth.
The Illini closed out the season with Hague leading the Illini to a 15th place finish at the NCAA Midwest Regional. Following Hague was Yaeger and Falsey. Throughout the year, six Fighting Illini recorded new personal-bests, including two juniors, Aufmann and Hynes, and four sophomores, Frigo, Hoshi, Porada, and Stratton.
Next year, the Illini will have plenty of experience. With Yaeger, Falsey, Porada and Frigo all having competed in the NCAA Midwest Regional, there will be no lack of motivation. Petrey, who was a member of the Big Ten roster and finished the season in the top six in every race will also return along with Yaeger who finished in the top four of every event she competed in.
"I'm really excited about our freshman group," Rasmussen said. "They were able to come in, and some of them were able to help us right away. The attitude that our freshmen have and the desire to have a great team and success is there and we see it every single day. I can't say enough about their attitudes and the way that they're going to help this team be successful and get back to the national meet in years to come."