Cross Country: Cats round out regular season with second-place finish at Illini Open

Ellie Friedmann, Reporter

Cross Country

Senior Renee Wellman led the Wildcats to a second-place finish Friday at the Illini Open, Northwestern’s final competition before the championship season begins.

The Cats will host the 2015 Big Ten Championships on Sunday at the Sydney Marovitz Golf Course in Chicago, but before the culminating conference meet of the season, they ran at the University of Illinois to finish the regular season and help determine which final runners will be added to the roster for Big Tens.

Wellman ran the 4.98-kilometer course in 18 minutes, 56.73 seconds, crossing the finish line 11th in a field of 74 runners. Behind Wellman were junior Ellen Schmitz and freshman Ashley Ko, who finished in 19:04.11 and 19:12.38, respectively.

With the group of seven or eight runners slated for Big Tens not on the course, Coach ‘A Havahla Haynes said the rest of the Cats demonstrated progress as they finished strong and ahead of Big Ten competitors Illinois and Purdue.

“It was really progress in terms of the ability for the women to beat out other runners, regardless of it being teammates or competitors,” Haynes said. “They were able to compete and move well over their last kilometer.”

Haynes said she has coached her athletes to run to pass other runners to score points and gain spots on the field, not just to go out and post a quick time.

Wellman said she noticed how successful her teammates were at running strategically, ultimately leading to their second-place finish.

“I was really happy with how we all continued to move up during the race,” Wellman said. “We weren’t really getting passed, we were the ones passing.”

With Big Tens coming up this weekend, part of the focus of the Illini Open was to see which women were able to run fast, injury-free and according to the racing plan. Those who have raced in the top five or six on the team consistently this season know they will race Sunday.

For the final few spots on the roster, Haynes said she seeks the runners who are healthiest and running well. If someone is sick with a head cold or under a lot of stress, she said, that woman won’t race Sunday.

Wellman said her performance at Illinois puts her in the running for the Big Ten Championships roster, but she will not officially know until later in the week after Haynes gets a better sense of where her athletes stand.

“For anyone who wants to be on the line next Sunday, I think we need to have a very solid workout on Tuesday and make sure we’re taking care of ourselves,” Wellman said. “Most people on the team certainly hope to run Big Tens. It’s one of our biggest meets of the year.”

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