ISU Cross Country Opens Season at Illini Challenge
Aug. 28, 2008
NORMAL, Ill. - For the third year in a row the Illinois State men's and women's cross country teams are set to open their seasons at the Illini Challenge at the Illinois Arboretum in Urbana, Ill. The women's 4K race is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. and will be followed by the men's 6K at 5:30 p.m.
Illinois State head cross country coach Jeff Bovee uses this first meet of the season to assess the progress his student-athletes are making. While most of the men's and women's team members will be competing some of the varsity level athletes will not be competing in the first race of the season.
"This meet is a nice assessment tool to check out fitness levels as we focus on building strength early in the season," said Bovee. "We are not sharp at this time of the year, but we are training hard and the student-athletes are not rested for this race.
"With a new crop of runners we are going to be working on our team dynamics and try to learn how to race together on both the men's and women's side. The key will be to go out and control the early part of the race, build in the middle and stretch it out at the end. It will help us see where we are and help us get us ready for conference. Then we have three weeks of training before our next meet, which is at home (Illinois Intercollegiate Championships, Sept. 19)."
Bovee will be looking to junior Rob Barkulis and sophomore Jon Roberts to lead the men's cross country team into action Friday. The two have had a solid summer of training following a strong track and field season. During the outdoor track and field season Barkulis made it to the finals of the 1,500- and 800-meter runs at the State Farm Missouri Valley Track and Field Outdoor Championships, while Roberts finished eighth in the steeplechase.
Freshmen newcomers Rich Eber, Kevin Forde, David Schumacher and Kevin Grady will make their Redbird racing debuts. The 2007 All-Missouri Valley Conference members junior Scott Krapf and senior Mike Richardson, as well as sophomores Matt Mroczynski and John Navarro, will not take to the course and will wait to start their season at the Redbirds' home meet Sept. 19.
On the women's side, Bovee is excited to see what his young team is capable of. Returning 10 runners and adding seven newcomers, the team has added depth. Sophomore co-captain Jess Husted will lead the squad into action, while senior captain Kathleen Thompson will not take to the course until the `Birds run at home in three weeks.
"A lot of our intangible people could make a huge impact on our team and are at a high level of fitness," said Bovee. "I am excited to see what they can do in a race situation and observe our freshmen in their college racing debut.
"The women's race is going to be close. We could have eight women cross the finish line within 10 to 15 seconds of each other and that would be great, especially if they are running fast."
Fifteen women are expected to race with five freshmen making their college debut. Among those freshmen competing will be Caitlin Bull, Emily Gallup, Hannah Hogan, Aisha Praught, Ashley Salzman along with sophomore transfer Olivia Myers.