Cross Country: Majority of the team to finish out season Friday at Illini Open

Ellie Friedmann, Reporter

Cross Country

For many of the Wildcats, the race at the Illini Open this Friday will be their final competition of the season.

The squad advancing to run in the Big Ten Championships on Nov. 1 will not compete this weekend. Coach ‘A Havahla Haynes and the rest of the team will travel to Champaign to record some final fast times for the season.

Haynes said one or two runners with standout performances could earn a spot on the Big Ten Championships roster if they are strong, healthy and ready to run aggressively at the championship meet, which Northwestern will host at the Sydney Marovitz Golf Course in Chicago. With eight women already in mind to step up to the line at Big Tens, and nine spots available, Haynes said she plans to add one runner to the roster and maybe a second, depending on Friday’s performances.

“To be honest, I’m not looking for any certain woman,” Haynes said. “The Illini meet is a tough meet because it’s not a super competitive meet, so not a lot of women get pushed. It’ll matter who is healthy enough and who is feeling 100 percent.”

With their top runner, junior Jena Pianin, out for the season due to injury, the Cats are looking to put forward a healthy, optimistic team to build morale and stay competitive. Their eyes are set on a top-ten finish this year within the conference.

Senior Rachel Weathered, who will not be competing in the Illini Open because she is slated to run at Big Tens, said the meet this weekend provides a different kind of opportunity for different members on the team.

“It’s a fun opportunity for a lot of our seniors to have a last race,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for some girls, who could be our eighth and ninth runners, to prove themselves and show that they can be competitive.”

Even with many top runners absent from competition this weekend as they gear up for Big Tens, Haynes said her team is excited to leave all its effort on the course to make a final good impression on the 2015 season. Whether they’re racing to finish first for the Cats and advance to Big Tens or post a solid time in the final race of their college career, Haynes said all the women are ready to put their best foot forward.

Senior Renee Wellman said that although her Northwestern cross country career has been unpredictable, with a new coach her senior year and several teammates’ injuries to set the team back during championship seasons, she is optimistic about NU’s future and enthusiastic about finishing out the season strong.

“This could be the last race of my college career,” Wellman said. “Regardless, I’m excited to have another race with the team, especially on a nice course like Illinois, and we should have some good conditions to put down some fast times.”

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