On Friday afternoon, the Illinois State men’s cross country team competed at the Bradley Pink Classic at Newman Golf Course in Peoria, Ill. On a beautiful day for cross country, the Redbird men recorded ten individual personal bests and finished fourth in a field of 26 teams.
The relatively flat course coupled with beautiful weather and a strong overall competition level to yield personal best times for ten out of 12 runners that competed for Illinois State in the men’s red 8k race on Friday.
Illinois State men’s cross country assistant coach Jake Shaver cited a number of reasons for the large number of personal bests on Friday.
“I think it was just being ready to go,” said Shaver. “We had a good day weather wise. [Also, the] workouts [during practice] have been going great and we had a bunch of people prepared to go out there and have the right mindset going into this race.”
Senior Tyler Morse was the first Redbird to cross the finish line. He finished 12th overall in a personal best time of 24:17. Junior Jeff Bajema stopped the clock at 24:18 which was 28 seconds faster than his previous best time.
For Bajema, the Bradley Pink Classic marked the third consecutive meet in a row where he recorded a personal best 8k time. How does he do it?
“I’ve just been having some really solid workouts,” said Bajema. “I try to stay within myself during workouts and keep progressing. [Also], I really focus on [improving upon] the areas that I need to work on during races.”
The next batch of Redbirds to finish all recorded personal best times as well. Redshirt-freshman Kyle Mattes built on his strong performance at the Notre Dame Invitational two weeks prior. Mattes stopped the clock at 24:37 for a 28 second personal best. Junior Jesse Hahne continued his comeback campaign dipping under 25 minutes for the first time in his college career. Hahne missed considerable training time over the summer with a stress fracture injury.
The biggest personal best of the day belonged to sophomore Joe Singleton. He finished fifth on the team and recorded a time of 25:03 to shatter his previous personal best time by over a minute.
“It felt good, that’s for sure,” said Singleton when asked about his breakthrough performance on Friday. “I’m just happy that the hard work that I’ve been putting in has finally paid off. It has been a long time coming.”
Coach Shaver was happy with Singleton’s performance on Friday.
“Joe had been struggling a little bit this year but he kept himself in it emotionally and mentally and [he] was able to put a great one out there when we needed him to do it.”
Junior Brendan Hoskins and redshirt-freshman J.D. LaFayette finished sixth and seventh for the Redbirds respectively. Both runners recorded personal best times. Lafayette, a middle-distance track specialist by trade, continues to solidify himself as a solid cross country runner.
Juniors Paul Steeno (25:34) and Wes Ward (25:55) and senior Aidan Askin (25:44) all notched personal best times as well.
Fifth-year senior Ryan Rutherford competed unattached and finished second overall in the red race in a time of 23:49. Rutherford doesn’t have any remaining cross country eligibility but will compete in a Redbird uniform during track season.
In addition to the runners that competed in the red race, the Redbirds had four participants in the white race. Marcelo Burbano finished second overall in a time of 25:43. Freshmen Skyler Arthur and Ethan Kirk finished 14th and 16th respectively. Redshirt-freshman Connor Ehnle competed in his first collegiate competition and notched an 18th place finish.
The Illinois State men’s cross country team will send their ‘B’ team to Champaign, Ill. this Friday to compete in the Illini Open at the University of Illinois. On Oct. 31, the eight fastest runners on the team will compete at the Missouri Valley Cross Country Championship in Evansville, Ind.