Senior Chantelle Groenewoud finished her Illini cross country career as a two-time All-Region runner and a 2009 All-Big Ten runner.
Dec. 21, 2010
The Illinois Fighting Illini women's cross country team wrapped up its 2010 season with a pair of meet victories and three top-five finishes. Sophomore Stephanie Morgan earned All-Region honors for her effort at the Midwest Regional Championships. Morgan and senior Chantelle Groenewoud both posted 6K times that were among the top eight in Illinois history.
The youthful Illini squad ran seven different freshmen over the course of the year, and two of those freshmen--Melissa Schmidt and Meghan Frigo--earned spots on the Illini's Big Ten Championships roster. Coach Jeremy Rasmussen hadn't run two freshmen in Big Tens since his first year at Illinois in 2007.
Sixteen different Illini runners set personal-best times at every distance they raced at. Three of those runners--Meagan Hynes, Stacy Hague and Kelsey Seiler--ran and set personal bests at each of the three distances Illinois raced this year--4K, 5K and 6K.
"We continued to get better and better as the year went on," cross country coach Jeremy Rasmussen said. "Some of the things we hoped to happen didn't happen. We didn't get Kristin Sutherland back to where we wanted to get her, which would have helped us a tremendous amount. We got better as a group and closer as a team while each individual ran faster."
Illinois opened the season by hosting the 4K Illini Challenge. The team took second at the meet, with Stacy Hague leading the way with a third-place overall finish. Five runners made their Illini debut, and three Illini set 4K personal-bests by double-digit margins. Illinois placed six runners in the top 14.
A week later, Illinois easily won the Sycamore Pride Invitational in Terre Haute, Ind. The Illini placed eight runners in the top 13, including the top four collegiate racers. Hague led the team and set a personal best for the second straight week, placing second overall, behind only an Indiana State alumnae. Freshmen Melissa Schmidt and Meghan Frigo finished in the top five, joined by Hannah Worman to give the Illini three true freshmen in the top 10.
The Illini took third place at the Illinois Intercollegiate Championships in Normal, Ill., marking the third consecutive week Illinois finished in the top three. Hague led the team and finished in the top-10 overall for a third consecutive meet. Sophomore transfer Stephanie Morgan and senior Ashley Thompson both made season debuts and finished in the top five for the team.
Senior Chantelle Groenewoud made her season debut at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational, as the team tied for 13th overall. Groenewoud opened her season by posting a 6K personal best (20:50.4), which was good for the eighth-fastest time in Illinois history. Hague finished second on the team and set her third personal best in four races.
"The first few meets were definitely a battle," Rasmussen said. "We ran pretty well at our first home meet. The first time it really started coming together for us was after the Wisconsin meet. We had set a bunch of PRs. We looked better as a team. We didn't look scared or timid. They figured out that we had a long way to go, but we had the capability to make some big dents in that."
The Illini split up for the Bradley Classic and Pre-National Invitational. In Peoria, Ill., for the Bradley Classic, all seven Illini posted 6K personal bests, and the Illini finished fifth of 20 teams. Courtney Yaeger led the team and posted a 21:45, good for 11th overall. Kelsey Seiler, Madeline Aufmann, Maggie Mulchrone, Frigo, Meagan Hynes and Katie Porada all competed and set personal bests as well.
The next day, the top Illini runners competed in the Pre-National Invitational in Terre Haute, Ind. Groenewoud led the team and Hague finished second again, while Amber Stack set a personal best for the second straight race and finished fourth on the team. The Orange and Blue placed 24th out of 40 teams.
The UI Arboretum hosted an Illini meet for the second and final time of the season for the third annual Illini Open. Illinois won the meet for the third straight year, this time led by a pair of true freshmen. Frigo led the team and finished second overall, and Schmidt finished right behind her in third place. Both freshmen posted 5K personal bests by more than 45 seconds.
Frigo's effort led to her earning Big Ten Runner of the Week honors. Frigo was the first Illini since Angela Bizzarri in October 2009 to receive the honor and the first freshman since Amber Stack in 2008.
"It's nice to have someone go out on a given weekend and be the best in the conference," Rasmussen said. "For a freshman to come in and do that is a great thing. It surprised her. When we announced it at practice, it let everyone know that they belong here and this is something they can be successful at. It's a confidence booster for her and I think also for the other runners that get to see how this hard work pays off. "
Illinois traveled to Madison, Wis., for the Big Ten Championships on Halloween. Four Illini runners posted 20-plus second improvements to their 6K personal bests, including Hague and Morgan, who finished second and third on the team, respectively. Groenewoud led the team and improved her time from last year's Big Ten Championships, but the tougher field prevented her from finishing among the top 14 and earning All-Big Ten honors for a second consecutive year. Amber Stack finished fourth on the team and set a personal best, and the team finished 9th of 11.
The Illini closed out the season in Peoria, Ill., for the Midwest Regional Championships. Stephanie Morgan led the team for the first time on the season and finished 20th overall to earn All-Region honors for the second year in a row.
"It was all about getting her in the best shape," Rasmussen said. "She'd done a lot of different things in the past year, and now it was time to get back to what we felt was the best way for her to get better. It just took some time. We were fortunate that we had enough time to get her running so fast at the end, and it's unfortunate we didn't have one or two more races, because I think you would have seen even more progress from her."
Morgan's time (20:46.10) was good for the sixth fastest 6K time in Illinois history. Chantelle Groenewoud overcame a fall at the 2K mark to finish second on the team and 26th overall, missing a third consecutive All-Region honors by one place despite improving her time by nearly 40 seconds from the Regional meet the year before. Yaeger set another personal best and finished fourth on the team.
Morgan became the seventh different runner to attain All-Region honors under coach Jeremy Rasmussen. Rasmussen has also coached five different All-Big Ten runners and All-American national cross country champion Angela Bizzarri.
Groenewoud led the team in three of four races in her senior season. She finishes her Illini cross country career as a two-time All-Region runner and a 2009 All-Big Ten runner. She was also a two-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree and a contributor on three teams that finished in the top-12 nationally.
"She's probably as important as anyone on the team, and she's probably more important," Rasmussen said. "It's hard to take over as the frontrunner when you're following a three-time national champion (Angela Bizzarri)--the cross country national champion the year before. For her to step into that role and do the best she could was a tremendous help for us. Also, sometimes you don't see seniors make big steps in their times, but Chantelle made some pretty good jumps in her times. It's always nice to see that continued progression forward, especially with your upperclassmen because a lot of times that's not the case in other programs."
Stacy Hague finished in the top three Illini runners in each of the seven meets she ran in, which was the most meets anyone on the team competed in. She set and reset personal bests in four of those meets.
"We'd seen glimpses in the past of what she was capable of," Rasmussen said. "It was just a matter of keeping her moving in the right direction and staying healthy. Last year was a battle, but we changed some things with her and I think we've found the right formula. She's seeing the results right now. That's a testament to her believing in us and what we're doing. She's becoming the best runner she can."
Next year, Morgan and Kristin Sutherland, who spent much of the year nursing an injured hip, will lead the Illini. Morgan and Sutherland have the sixth and seventh fastest 6K times in Illinois history, respectively. Stacy Hague, who finished among the top three in every race this season, and Big Ten and Midwest Regional contributor Melissa Schmidt also return, along with Big Ten Runner of the Week honoree Meghan Frigo.