After coming off a strong showing at the Wheaton Invitational, the Maroons travelled to the village of Bourbonnais, IL to compete in the Illinois Intercollegiate Championships.
“Though we were satisfied with our performance at Wheaton, we knew that we had to physically and mentally prepare for a challenging meet on Friday. With Nick Nielsen injured, we knew that other athletes needed to have stellar performances to fill his shoes,” Second-year Peter Kreuch explained. “We approached this race ready to jump into a competitive field. We were eager to see how we compared to the top programs in the meet.”
The women came away from the weekend victorious, beating out 17 other teams to earn first place. The squad was dominant, compiling only 28 points to beat out second place St. Francis, who ended the day with 62 points. The men’s side earned fourth in the field of 16 teams. They ended the day with a total of 76 points while Augustana, the ultimate victor, had only 38.
On the women’s side, second-year Khia Kurtenbach and fourth-year Brianna Hickey led the way for the Maroons, earning first and second, respectively. Kurtenbach came in with a time of 18:23 with Hickey trailing just behind at 18:26.
“We felt like our performance at Wheaton didn't show off our true strength as a team. Going into this meet, we decided to be more aggressive at the beginning of the race. I think our confidence really led to a strong performances.” Kurtenbach explained.
A slew of second-years, including Kelsey Dunn, Cassidy McPherson, and Claire Costelloe came in behind them earning sixth, ninth and 10th, respectively. The lone rookie who placed for the Maroons was first-year Anastasia Bernat with a time of 19:16, earning her 15th place.
Kurtenbach explained, “I think it's most important that everyone stays confident going into races. We are a really strong team. If we don't back off from competition, we can ride our early successes into a great post-season.”
On the men’s side, second-year Gareth Jones and third-year Michael Frasco lead the pack for the Maroons, taking sixth and seventh place. Jones earned a time of 25:47 while Frasco came in just nine seconds later at 25:56. From there, the Maroons earned the 16th spot and finished with seven runners in the top 40.
The men’s squad recognizes that as the season gets further along, there will be more obstacles to face. Kreuch said, “At this point in the season, injuries are the biggest obstacle facing individuals and cross country programs alike. The workouts get tougher, athletes get tired, and balancing training and schoolwork poses challenges.”
However, he has hope for the rest of the season, “In terms of the team as a whole, we are excited about the coming two weeks. Our next races will expose us to a host of great programs. We’re eager for the chance to compete with these teams and see how we stack up. As an individual, I am excited to push to better my personal bests. Improving as an individual will subsequently push the guys ahead of me and pull the guys behind me forward.”
This weekend, the Maroons head to UW–Parkside to compete in the Lucian Rosa Invite. The race begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday