Senior Angela Bizzarri makes her season debut on Friday at the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational.
Sept. 9, 2009
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois women's cross country team splits up for a pair of meets this Friday as the top nine runners travel to University Park, Pa., for the Harry Groves Spiked Shoe Invitational on September 11 at 4:30 p.m. CT. The other half of the squad also competes on Friday at the Bradley Open in Peoria, Ill., at 5:30 p.m. CT.
The invitational at Penn State is an important meet for the team, not as much in terms of competition, but more so because the team will return to this site for this year's Big Ten Championships on November 1. Cross country coach Jeremy Rasmussen believes the goal of this meet is for the team to become comfortable and knowledgeable of the course before the team heads back for the season's critical conference meet.
"The expectation for the meet at Penn State is just to get to know the course the best we can," Rasmussen said. "We are not going to try to race that hard. We are just going to go out and get to know the course so that we will know it for the second time we are there, and get to take advantage of being there before."
The team's top runners make their season debuts at the 6K event, including senior and seven-time All-American Angela Bizzarri. Bizzarri ended a successful 2008 season with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships after running the 6K race in a school-record time of 19:59. The 5,000m national champion and Illini frontrunner views the race as an opportunity to study the course and continue the training process.
Fellow seniors Stephanie Baliga, Elizabeth Boyle and Theresa Brokaw also will make the trip to Happy Valley along with juniors Chantelle Groenewoud, Shannon Phelan and Ashley Thompson, and sophomores Kristin Sutherland and Danelle Woods. Each of these runners will make their season debuts except Thompson, who placed third at the season-opening Illini Challenge.
The Bradley Open is also on Friday in Peoria where 11 Orange and Blue harriers are set to race. Juniors Taylor Bennett, Jamie Brusa and Maggie Mulchrone lead sophomore Amber Stack and seven freshmen, including Madeline Aufmann, Meagan Hynes, Meghan Murphy, Elizabeth Schreiber, Kelsey Seiler, Mary Sullivan and Courtney Yaeger, into the team's second competition of the season. Aufmann, Bennett, Brusa, Seiler, Stack and Sullivan make their season debuts in Peoria.
"For some people going to the Bradley Open, it is going to be their first race of the year," Rasmussen said. "Really the expectation for those individuals is to get out there and see where they are at and see what things they need to work on. For those that ran last week, the emphasis is to build upon things that they didn't do too well at last week's race. Every meet, the goal is to improve and get better."
Next week, the Orange and Blue head to Normal, Ill., for the Illinois Intercollegiate Championships on Friday, September 18 at 4:30 p.m. CT.