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DEKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois cross country team closes out their regular season Friday when they run in the Bradley Classic on the Newman Golf Course in Peoria, Ill.
The meet, which is in its ninth season hosting some of the Midwest's best, begins at 3 p.m. with the college/open races. The Huskies will hit the course at 5:05 p.m. with the women's 6K championship race.
"This is our last competition before the MAC Championships, so I just want to see the girls run with some confidence, assert themselves in the race early," said Huskie head coach Greg Hipp. "Certainly looking for good performances. I think we can be at least in the top eight this weekend. Last year, we were 14th at this meet, so that would be a solid improvement."
The Huskies enter their first 6K run of the season this week after a strong start to the season. NIU's last time out on the course saw the squad finish 11th of 51 teams at the Sean Earl Lakefront Invitational in Chicago. Courtney Oldenburg led the way for Northern with a 20th place finish and a time of 18:09 - her second-best 5K run of her career.
This week, NIU will be one of 25 teams in the field in Peoria. The competition will feature plenty of instate rivals for the Huskies, as the host Braves, Southern Illinois, DePaul, Eastern Illinois, Illinois State, UIC and Western Illinois make up a large part of the field. Additionally, Marquette, UAB, Saint Louis and Northern Iowa highlight the tightly-contested field. Last year, the Huskies took 14th place in Peoria, despite strong performances by Courtney Oldenburg, Claire McAuley and Jamie Burr.
Friday's race will also serve as a key warm-up for the MAC Championships, which take place in two weeks in Grand Island, N.Y.
"It's certainly a part of our gauge for how we can assess what our goals will be at the MAC Championships," Hipp said. "I'm looking to see what the girls will do over the 6K distance. I feel like they are confident they can race well, even though the distance is slightly changed from what we have been running in lately. For the most part, I think the body of work we've been doing over the last month is what we are going to base our goals off of for MAC."