IXC has a fantastic National meet, places in all four races

The Illinois Cross Country Club had a fantastic weekend at NIRCA Nationals in East Lansing, Michigan. The men took 3rd and the women took 2nd, while the men in the B race won with a dominating performance and the women in the B-race took second. All in all, IXC put together its second best performance of all-time at Nationals, it’s the first time that IXC has placed in all 4 of the races held at Nationals.

Men’s B Race

The men’s B race kicked off the action on Friday with a balmy race-time temperature of 28 degrees. The Illini showed off their depth, placing 7 in the top 15 and winning the race 29-63 over Michigan. Illinois has won the men’s B race every year it has been run. However, no Illinois runner had ever won the B race, until Saturday. Ryan Somerfield changed that with a wire-to-wire win at Forest Akers Golf Course. Somerfield got out with the front pack and never looked back, leading the race nearly the entire time. Almost as impressive as Ryan’s race was the dark moustache he grew out for “Must-Nationals 2014.” While he had had smaller-scale breakthroughs at UW-Parkside and Regionals, this Saturday showed that his training with the club this year has paid off.

Shortly behind Ryan was a strong Illini pack that dominated the B race. Jack O’Neil came through in 27:55 for a 4th place finish. Right behind him was Michael “One-Speed” Frintner. Two seconds behind him was grad student Henry Wolf, finishing 8th in his final cross country race. The Illini had 3 more honorable mention All-Americans with Jack Morrissey, David Choi, and Michael Schiable. Schiable had one of his best races of the year with a 28:21, to bring home a fancy NIRCA certificate.

Two weeks after they ran well at home, both Sean “SMB” Bruyere and Sean McCarty put together more strong performances. Big Sean, back to racing just in time for the post-season and fresh off a show-stopping rap on Friday night, dropped his seasonal PR like he was dropping rhymes. He improved by 14 seconds in only his second race of the year. McCarty built on his performance at Regionals on the cold snow-covered course. Both should be able to carry their momentum into track season and the future.

Eduardo “E-Ticket” “Sweaty Eddy” Martinez blew the team’s mind on Friday night with his rap skills, manicured a fantastic mustache for the meet and had a strong showing of the season at snowy Forest Akers. Fellow freshman Alex “Don’t Call Me” Shirley had his best race of the year at the biggest meet of the year. He ran nearly a minute PR, dropping a 46 seconds at MSU on a course that was running slow.

Women’s B Race

Ryan’s individual championship and the awesome showing by the men in the A race got the ball rolling for strong performances the rest of the day. The women in the B race ran to 2nd place, their highest-ever finish in the three years of the B race, and their first time placing in the race. Right after Ryan won the men’s B race, Lauren “Locho-Cinco” Choi took second place in the women’s B race. It was a good day for the Choi family, as Lauren’s younger sister Alex took the final honorable mention All-American spot in 15th place.

The Illini had two other runners in the top 15 of the B race, two seniors running their final cross country races. Track president Paige “Pobo” Oboikovitz took sixth and travel coordinator Monica “Monty” O’Connor took 9th. Thank you to Monica for doing an awesome job putting together the whole trip to Nationals, none of the club’s stellar performances would’ve been possible without her.

Rounding out the scoring five for Illinois were freshman Nataly Medina in a very strong race, dropping 55 seconds off her Regional time and Gwenn Porter, who helped keep her alma mater’s team (Penn State) off of the podium. Right behind Gwenn was a tight group of Hannah’s in Hannah Behle and Hannah Smith.

The girls had strong performances across the board. Coach Krauk highlighted performances by Allison Gibson, Selena Wallace and Kalina Gajda, a member of the famed 15-passenger Nationals “supervan.” This year marked the most Illini women to ever compete in the B race at NIRCA Nats.

Men’s A Race

The men’s and women’s A races featured the best Illinois finishes since 2011. It is only the second team in club history that the men and women both earned trophies at Nationals, and far and away the second-best finish for the club in the 9-year history of Nationals. The front pack of the race was dominated by a senior and grad-student-heavy Indiana team, but the Illini men executed their plan to claim a trophy.

As he has all-season, Evan White led the way for the Illini with an 18th place. Behind him were two strong top-25 performances from sophomore Jared Ripoli and freshman phenom Nick “Broshelle” Bushelle, the only two runners to run Nationals as freshmen for the club. Jared improved by 28 places from his Nationals debut last year. Bushelle went on a tear at the end of the race and was running down Jared in the final straightaway to finish in 26:50. Nick also had one of the team’s strongest mustaches all season, but unfortunately shaved a few weeks before Nationals.

Adam Cobert ran the way he did all year to be the team’s fourth finisher. Cobert started off methodically and turned it on in the race’s second half to move up to 47th place. Just behind him was El Presidente, Eric de Guevara to finish the scoring five. Three of that five return next year. Watch out NIRCA.

Women’s A Race

Emma Grimes and Megan Mocogni were expected to have strong races to lead the Illini women. The biggest stand-out in the race was a fantastic pack of Emma Burkhardt, Erin McKee and Lexy Rudofski in the three, four and five spots. This tight-knit group stayed together for the whole first half of the race and then all moved up even more to help bring home a trophy for the women. Emma Burkhardt built on her performance at Regionals as the no-doubt No. 3 women, and freshmen phenoms Erin and Lexy went out at a more controlled pace and took 49th and 51st overall.

Emma Grimes took second, and though she didn’t hold that place until the final straightaway, I don’t think there was any doubt that’s where she’d finish after she put herself in the mix of the front pack. Emma ran a very smart, strategic race. She ran with the chase pack and stuck onto the No. 2 runner’s shoulder because she knew her trademark monster kick could take down any competitor at the end.

Right behind her, women’s captain Megan Mocogni took 10th place, working her way up throughout the race and edging a Penn State runner by just half a second to claim the final top-10 spot. Thea Cudnowski continued her consistency by running well in her final cross country race, dropping a 25:32. The second place finish gives the women’s team their second trophy in club history, and second-best ever finish at Nationals. They also return three of their scoring five, so look out.

****

Overall, it was a fantastic weekend for the club team. In the nine years of the NIRCA National meet, this was IXC’s second best performance of all-time, behind only a team championship sweep in 2011. The work paid off for the Illini this year and the future is bright.

None of the performances would have been possible this weekend without the great parent volunteers who took the time to drive the team to East Lansing. Shout-out to Mr. Zeller, Mr. Krauklis, Mr. Kibler, Mrs. Piazza, Mrs. Guetterman, Mr. Kennedy/Dad, Mr. Bushelle, Mr . and Mrs. Mocogni, Mr. and Mrs. Cudnowski and Mr. and Mrs. Bruyere. The trip wouldn’t have been possible without you. Thank you to all who have supported the club this cross country season. It’s been one of our most successful ever, and a big part of it is thanks to those who are there cheering us on and offering encouragement. Thank you for your support, and see you in track season.

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IXC heads to Nationals

The Illinois Cross Country Club is headed to NIRCA Nationals in East Lansing, Mich. After winning the Great Plains Regional on both the men’s and women’s side, the club is ready for the postseason finale. The men and women will look to improve on fifth and fourth place finishes last year. The team is poised for success in all four of the day’s races.

In the men’s A race, Evan White and Greg Netols should lead the charge. Emma Grimes and Megan Mocogni will get another chance to face off against Regional champ Cara Donohue in the women’s A race. In the men’s and women’s B race, the team will show off its excellent depth.

It’s been a great season for the boys of Lake Zurich. Adam Cobert had the best race of his career at Regionals to be the team’s second finisher. He’s ready to do even better in East Lansing. Jared Ripoli has hadl a great season and has improved all year. He took the final All-Regional medal two weeks ago. Freshmen Brian Griffin and Austin Kuehr have had strong debut campaigns for the club. Austin is coming back from injury and both are ready for their first national meet.

It’s also been a year of freshman phenoms. Nick Bushelle has been a top 7 mainstay all year. Nick will be the second freshman to run in the A race for the team after Jared last year. Michael Frintner should be at the front of the pack in the B race after a great debut season.

The women have also relied on freshman in the top 7. Erin McKee has been a scorer all year and Lexy Rudofski has also had a great season.

It will also be the final cross country meet for the team’s seniors, and many are set up to go out with a bang. Monica O’Connor is fully recovered from an early season ankle injury. Thea Cudnowski has been a model of consistency this year and is ready to roll at Nationals. For the men, super senior Henry Wolf will look for a top finish in the B race. John Hopkins and Kevin Kibler raced last week to qualify for Nationals and finish their careers in East Lansing. Joe Zeller, fresh from organizing an excellent Regional meet, is ready to run well at Nationals with his dad in tow.

The action kicks off at 10:30 tomorrow morning with the men’s B race. It’ll be cold in East Lansing, but it’s a fast course and the club has put in the work required to run well. Look for updates from NIRCA and the club tomorrow morning.

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IXC wins men’s and women’s Great Plains Regional Championships

Both the men and women of the Illinois Cross Country Club are Regional Champs! It was a strong performance for the entire team highlighted by tons of pr’s and nine All-Regional medalists at our own home course. The club got off to a great running start to the postseason in the first NIRCA meet of the year.

After a tough defeat at last year’s regional to Iowa State, the men had an excellent showing. The entire scoring five- Evan White, Adam Cobert, Eric de Guevara, Jared Ripoli and Nick Bushelle- all medaled. The team claimed the regional championship 36-50 over some tough, tall competition from Minnesota.

Of the scoring five, the standout performance belonged to Adam Cobert. Cobert broke through on Saturday, finishing as the team’s second runner with a huge 20 second pr and a time of 26 minutes and 21 seconds. He said it was “a real confidence builder.” The former soccer player earned his first cross country medal with a 6th place finish.  Cobert, the former Pumpkin King, seems to be peaking at the right time and the sky is the limit in East Lansing.

Rounding out the top 7 were Joe Zeller (@ZanyZeller) and Michael “One-Speed” Frintner. Shout-out to Joe, the home-meet coordinator, for putting together a fantastic regional meet that went off without a hitch. Joe spent a ton of time this season preparing for the meet, time this week setting up and time after the meet tearing down with some help from the webmaster. Thank you Joe.

Just behind those two runners came another breakthrough from One-Speed’s rap partner, Ryan Somerfield. After running a big pr at UW-Parkside, Ryan came back and dropped even more time for a 27:21 on his home course.

Ryan should be in the front pack of the B-race at Nationals next week and he’ll be joined several teammates from an extremely deep IXC squad, like Jack Morrissey and Henry Wolf, who both ran seasonal bests at Regionals.

There were strong races across the board for the men. Griffin Bojan had a nice debut with the club, running 28:32, just one second behind Quinn “the Dance-llor” Todzo, who continued his steady improvement with a 10 second PR in front of his parents who came to watch all the way from California. Saturday also marked the long-awaited season debut of Sean “SMB” Bruyere. He’s back and ready to tear it up at Nationals.

Another Sean, Sean McCarthy had a great day in his second race this season. He moved up throughout the race and cut 1:26 off of his time from SIU-Edwardsville a few weeks ago. It was also the second race of the season for Danny Ayala, and he cut 27 seconds off of his Parkside time. A few seconds behind him, fellow freshman Cody Hansen continued a season of big time drops. Cody dropped 1:20 between his first two meets, and dropped another 53 seconds this week. These freshmen who have bought into the program are starting to reap the rewards and see the results.

There were several standouts on the women’s side as well in their bid to repeat as Regional champs. For the first time this year, Captain Megan Mocogni led the charge to defeat Minnesota 31-57 and take the regional title. She ran 22:57, a 25 second seasonal-6K best. Emma Grimes was second for the team.

Emma Burkhardt had a strong showing as the third finisher and seventh place overall. Emma has been a rock-solid top-7 mainstay all-season long and she had her best race of the season on Saturday. A big summer in which she “actually ran,” has been paying dividends for Emma and all of her hard work is paying off at the perfect time in the postseason.  Following Emma were two other consistent contributors, freshmen phenoms Erin McKee and Lexy Rudofski.

Lauren Choi and Thea Cudnowski completed the top 7. Lauren had a great race, clocking a 24:42. It was Lauren’s first appearance in the top 7 this year, and it’s indicative of the team’s depth that there’s different athletes in those spots every meet. Just behind them, Heather Guetterman and track club president Paige Oboikovitz ran seasonal 6K bests.

Anna Piazza had a breakout performance with a 25:12, a 1:08 pr from her last 6K at SIU-Edwardsville. She has steadily improved all season long. Selena Wallace also dropped a minute off of her 6K time at SIU-E, another big improvement after dropping 1:12 off at SIU-E. Both of these ladies are rounding into form at the right time.

All in all, it was a great day for IXC on Saturday, taking home two Regional trophies on our home course and a great launching pad for Nationals next week. While it was a little chilly in the morning, it got warmer as the action heated up. There was a ton of IXC fan support at the Arb, thank you to all of the family and friends who came out to support the team! I can’t think of a better send-off for Nationals and the end of the season. Next Saturday, the club will be competing at the NIRCA National Championships in East Lansing, Mich. We’ll keep you posted with updates on what we hope to be another great day for IXC.

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IXC hosts NIRCA Great Plains Regional

The postseason begins for the Illinois Cross Country Club this Saturday, right here on campus at the U of I Arboretum. For the second consecutive year, the IXC Club is hosting the NIRCA Great Plains Regional. Club cross country teams from around the Midwest will travel to U of I to compete in order to qualify for NIRCA Nationals on November 15. Competing against the Illini are Big Ten foes in Minnesota, Northwestern and Wisconsin, in-state opponents from Bradley, Illinois State and Loyola-Chicago, “Arch”-rivals Mizzou and Washington University, as well as frequent NIRCA challenger Iowa State.

The women race first at 10 AM. Last year, the ladies dominated the meet 24-75 over the Minnesota Running Club. There will be quite a duel at the front between two graduate student frontrunners: Cara Donahue of Minnesota and Illinois’ own Emma Grimes. Donahue won the meet handily last year, but Emma had an outstanding track season and has been on a tear this fall.

Head coach Steve Krauklis said social coordinator Thea Cudnowski, track president-elect Paige Oboikovitz and freshman Emily Foley all are looking improved. Each of them could help fill out the top seven and put together another victory for Illinois. Coach Krauk also said that Anna Piazza and Selena Wallace have made some big strides in the last few weeks, so look for a strong performance from them.

The men race at 11 AM and it will be interesting to see how things shake out in the team standings. Last year, Iowa State ran a great race to put five in the top six and beat Illinois 16 to 43. They went on to finish second at Nationals and they bring back two strong runners. The Illini scoring five has had a much different look this year than last year, and they’ll have a chance to win the meet at home in their second year as the host.

The top returner from last year’s meet for Illinois is Eric de Guevara. After a strong race at UW-Parkside three weeks ago, Coach Krauk thinks he’s poised for big things. Following a stellar debut at Parkside, Matt “Swagmaster” Dini has been running consistently strong workouts after moving up a group. The duo of Dini’s high school teammate, Jack O’Neil, and Jack Morrissey has been looking good in practice as well according to Krauk. Alex Erwin will try to continue his PR streak on Saturday. Since his debut at EIU, Alex has PR’d in the 8K in every meet he’s run in.

Illini athletes are ready to race fresh off of three weeks of uninterrupted training, and the course should lend itself to some fast times. In true Central Illinois fashion, the Arboretum course is almost entirely flat, except for one huge hill that runners first face after the first kilometer. The women run up the hill twice, while the men have to ascend it three times during the race. Both men and women loop around a plot of agricultural fields, but most of the course runs under the trees of the Arboretum grounds.

This is the club’s final home meet (they previously competed at the season-opening Illini Challenge) and the final meet before NIRCA Nationals in East Lansing, Mich. It’s a great chance to come and cheer on the team in their postseason debut and send them off to a strong performance at Nationals. Whether you’re around campus or want an excuse to come back and visit campus, Saturday is a great opportunity to come and cheer on the team! We hope to see you at the Arboretum for the women’s race at 10 and the men’s race at 11.

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IXC travels to Wisconsin for Parkside’s Lucian Rosa Invite

This weekend, the Illinois Cross Country club headed north to Kenosha, Wisc., for UW-Parkside’s Lucian Rosa Invite. The meet provided perhaps the club’s biggest challenge yet this season with a difficult course and strong competition. The team responded, with some great performances on the Dannehl National Cross Country Course in front of lots and lots of IXC supporters. By unofficial score (thanks to Beau Barber), the men took ninth of 19 teams and the women took tenth of 22 teams.

The men raced first at Parkside and for the first time this season, the top dog was Jared Ripoli. After running his best race of the season at Augustana, Jared came back with another strong showing of 26 minutes and 29 seconds. Of course, Jared is used to the hills and weaving trails of Kenosha by now after a second place finish team finish last year and two high school appearances at the Foot Locker Midwest Regional held here.

The boys of Lake Zurich cross country know the Parkside course well, as they make the trip up every year for the season opening Horlick Invite, where Austin “Chief Milwaukee” Kuehr and Brian “Sly Bri” Griffin both competed last year. It seemed like their familiarity with the course paid dividends. Both continued to show improvement, and Brian actually ran almost 15 seconds faster here than at Augustana, hitting 28:42.

Another runner making his return to Kenosha was Ryan Somerfield. Ryan last ran at Kenosha as a high school sophomore for the prestigious “Eagle Invite.” It seemed like he felt right at home on the course as had his best race of the season so far, running 27:56, a full minute and 29 seconds faster than Augustana. He feels like he’s finally getting back into shape and it shows.

While several guys were making returns to Kenosha, Tyler Dixon had never raced here before, but he instantly fell in love with the course. I’m not sure how in love you can fall with that first mile, but good for Tyler; he ran 28:43 with his grandparents cheering him on from the sideline.

Jon Hootman looked like he was ready to drink the blood of the innocent on the course yesterday. Despite his embarrassment at not knowing what a charger is, Jonny Hoots put his shame behind him and had a solid performance on Saturday morning. Head coach Steve Krauklis said that the Hotman has been putting in the work and the results showed, he ran 80 seconds faster than last year at this meet.

Krauk said that Eric de Guevara was due for a good race, and he got one this weekend. While Eric expressed concern beforehand about the crowded forest trails, it seems things worked alright for him (maybe by running through competitors’ legs). He ran 26:46 to be the team’s third finisher.

In front of Eric in the two spot was Greg Netols; behind him was none other than David Oskar Choi. David proved that last week’s breakout performance at Augustana, where he finished fourth for the team, was no fluke. It looks like something has clicked for David and it’ll be exciting to see what he can do the rest of the season. Joe “@ZanyZeller” Zeller rounded out the men’s scoring five, followed by Adam Cobert and Michael “One-Speed” Frintner.

Special shout-out to the competitors who made their IXC debut on Saturday morning. Matt “Swagmaster” Dini had a fantastic first race with the club, dropping a 27:52. Danny “Ayala-te” Ayala and Mike Schiable also had solid debuts in their first 8K races with the team.

For the women, the front pack looked excellent. The 1-5 split on the day was 1:05, the women’s best of the season by far. It was a 19 second drop from last week at Augustana, and a huge 35 second drop from the Illini Challenge at the start of the year. This was the first time this season that this scoring five of Emma Grimes, Megan Mocogni, Erin McKee, Heather Guetterman and Lexy Rudofski all competed in, so look for big things as the women’s full lineup prepares for the postseason.

Emma led the way once again for the women with an 18:49 5K, a 28 second improvement from last year. Last year’s meet was Emma’s first time as the women’s top finisher and she has been on a tear ever since. Per usual, Emma had a monstrous kick, even though she thought it was substandard. She will be motivated and ready to go when she gets to race again against NIRCA competition, so the schools headed to Champaign for Regionals better beware.

Behind her was the women’s captain, Megan, with a 19:15, another solid performance that put her 10 seconds ahead of last year. Freshman phenom Erin and savvy veteran Heather finished just a second apart at 19:28 and 19:29, respectively. Fellow freshman phenom Lexy Rudofski finished off the women’s scoring five.

The women had a strong front pack throughout the whole race, about halfway through, Megan, Erin and Lexy were all running side-by-side. It’s a promising top five for the women, with seasoned frontrunners, young freshman standouts, and some serious racing prowess.

But the women have plenty of depth beyond Saturday’s first five. Rounding out the top five were Emma Burkhardt and Thea Cudnowksi. Emma has had a great season so far after putting some serious work in over the summer and Thea has been a model of consistency this year for the women’s squad. Shout-out to Nataly Medlin, who made her debut with IXC on Saturday.

Travel coordinator Monica O’Connor continued her comeback trail at Parkside with an impressive performance. She ran a full minute and twenty seconds faster than last year. And that race comes on the heels of one of the most difficult meets of the year for her to travel-coordinate for, so props to Monica.

Speaking of that travel, a big thank you to all of the families who graciously offered their homes for the team to stay at on Friday night- the Coberts, Ripolis, O’Connors, Kuehrs, Mocognis and Wageners. Special thanks to the Coberts, who in my unbiased opinion had the most awesome accommodations of anyone (I’m still salivating over Mrs. Cobert’s pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies).

Also, thank you to everyone who came out to support the team in Kenosha. It was great to see so many families there to cheer us on. While I can’t remember them all, shout-outs to the Cudnowskis, Frintners, Dixons, Mrs. Hootman, Rudofskis, Shirleys, Ayalas, Medinas and of course, my dear ol’ Dad. We love getting the chance to race in front of our families, so thank you once again.

Now, the team’s attention turns to the post-season and NIRCA competition. IXC will have two weekends off before the NIRCA Midwest Regional, hosted at our own beautiful University of Illinois Arboretum on November 1. It’s our one true home meet of the year and the penultimate race of the season before NIRCA Nationals, so we hope to see you there!

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