Senior Courtney Yaeger led the Illini in four of her five meets and earned All-Region honors this season.
Dec. 10, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The Fighting Illini women's cross country team lost just one letterwinner from last year's squad and had a goal to make significant improvements with this year's team. Sixth-year coach Jeremy Rasmussen knew the team had good leadership which would bring this team to be much stronger.
The Illini began their season at the Illini Challenge. Of the five runners competing in the Orange and Blue, two competed in their first collegiate meet and two set personal bests at the 4K distance. Senior Meagan Hynes paced the Illini, finishing 15th overall with a career best time of 15:31. Coming in second for the Illini was freshman Michelle Frigo, who was one of the two competing in her first ever collegiate meet. Frigo crossed the finish line in 15:43, placing 22nd overall.
At the Illinois Intercollegiate Championships, the Illini put in a great performance that resulted in winning the title for the first time since 2008. Senior Courtney Yaeger made her season debut at the meet, finishing first for the Illini and second overall with a then personal best 5K time of 17:14. Yaeger's performance earned her Big Ten Co-Athlete of the Week honors. She was not the only Illini to set a personal best at the meet, as 12 others set personal bests at the 5K distance.
The Illini would compete at the Notre Dame Invitational next, running against the toughest competition they had competed against to that point. As a team the Illini performed extremely well, finishing 5th overall in a meet that contained five nationally ranked teams out of the total 18 teams competing. Yaeger would lead the Illini for the second meet in a row, finishing in sixth with a new personal best 5K time of 16:48. This would be the second time in just as many races that Yaeger set a personal best at the 5K distance.
Two weeks later the Illini competed at both Pre-Nationals and the Bradley Classic. At Pre-Nationals, Yaeger would once again lead the Illini. The senior set a then personal best at the 6K distance, finishing with a time of 21:00, in route to a 48th place overall finish. The Illini as a team would finish 17th out of the 38 teams at the meet. At the Bradley Classic, Rachel Irion paced the Illini with a 6K time of 22:36, coming in 73rd overall.
During the Illini's last home meet, Colette Falsey took home the Illinois Open individual title after a completing the 5K course in 18:46. Falsey led an Illini team that had five runners finish in the top ten at the meet.
At the Big Ten Championships, the Illini finished ninth among a field of talented runners. Yaeger again led the Illini, finishing eighth overall with a time of 20:34, which ranked the fifth-fastest time in school history. Yaeger also earned second-team All-Big Ten honors for the first time in her career. Not far behind, teammate Alyssa Schneider finished 22nd overall and set a personal best 6K time of 20:56, which ranked just outside of the top 10 all-time in school history.
A few Illini runners made the short trip over to Bloomington, Ind., to compete at the Hoosier Invitational. Hynes led the Illini with a second place overall finish, completing the 5K course in 19:11.
At the NCAA Midwest Regionals, Illinois finished ninth out of the 31 squads competing. Schneider led the way for the Illini, finishing with a 6K time of 21:04. Schneider's performance earned her All-Region honors for the first time in her career. Even though Yaeger had been in the the lead group with Schneider around the 2K mark, she tripped and fell behind. The veteran showed determination to catch up with the leaders and finished in 25th place with a 6K time of 21:30. Yaeger joined her teammate in earning All-Region Honors for the first time in her career.
The Illini will have plenty of experience next year, only graduating four senior from the current squad. Schneider will look to continue her success with her teammates Meghan Frigo, Amanda Fox, Katie Porada, Lindsey Rakosnik and Chloe Schmidt, all who have post season experience.