For both the Illinois State University cross-country and track teams, a lot of change has occurred, from a brand new coaching staff to nearly a quarter of their team being freshman. However, the leaders of the team are not too worried. “We’re dead set on winning conference. It’s going to be a good year,” senior standout Ryan Rutherford said.
Over the past few seasons, the Redbirds have lost athletes due to both injury and graduation, which makes filling in the gaps for certain events difficult at times. Head coach Jeff Bovee did a lot of recruiting these past few seasons to ensure that the Redbirds will instill not only a large amount of talent, but depth as well.
Freshman mid-distance runners Ryan Kennedy and David Curnock are excited for the year to come. Ryan Kennedy, who is from New Lenox, specializes in both the 400- and 800-meter run. Kennedy was a standout in both track and cross-country through high school, but tore his hamstring senior year of cross-country, forcing him to watch from the sidelines. “I’m excited to be coached by Bovee in the next four years,” Kennedy said. “I hope can make a big impact on the team as a freshman and win conference.”
David Curnock is also a freshman addition who comes from Batavia. With his ability to run a sub-2 minute 800, Curnock is excited to pace the middle distance runners and looks forward to making great strides in the winter and spring. “I am very confident in this year’s season. There’s a lot of talent, and I’m excited for what is yet is come,” Curnock said.
On the women’s side, Bovee was adamant on bringing in talent from all ends of the running spectrum, from steeplechase to sprints. Ariel Michalek, a sophomore hailing from Aurora, is a transfer coming from a year of experience at University of Wisconsin. Michalek will be an addition to both track and cross-country after being a solid performer in the mile at the Bill Bergan Invitational with a time of 5:06.63, 3,000-meter steeplechase with a personal-best of 10:54.30, and clocking a respectable 6K (cross-country) time of 21:44.
Another freshman cross-country and track runner is Krista Fitzmaurice. Fitzmaurice is from St. Charles and brings a lot to the table when it comes to distance running. As a high school student, Fitzmaurice helped her team to a third-place finish at state. She was also named to the all-conference, all-sectional and all-state teams. The switch from high school to college hasn’t been much of a challenge for Fitzmaurice, as she easily fell into a routine. “Being on the team as a freshman eases the transition so much, and I really hope to be successful. It’s a whole new playing field with a brand new training environment, and I can’t wait to see the team succeed together.” Fitzmaurice said. Fitzmaurice will contribute for the Redbirds in both the fall and the spring.
On the sprinting side, Emily Cowan and Katelyn Hill have shown both talent and athleticism. Cowan, from Aurora, ran the 55-, the 100- and 200-meter sprints all through high school as well as working in the field as a long jumper. She may be just the diversity the Redbirds need. Katelyn Hill is also one with a lot of experience in not only short sprints, but hurdles as well. Hill, who comes from Glenn Ellyn, is in a league of her own, holding a school record in the 100-meter hurdles. Being the first athlete of her high school to ever reach the finals in four separate events is no simple feat. To top it off, she placed second in the 300-meter hurdles and was state champion in the 100-meter hurdles.
With cross-country and indoor track season fast approaching, the incoming freshmen are ready to bring their eagerness to succeed and represent ISU well.