A Whole New Level

Oct. 18, 2004

Take a dose of senior leadership, a pinch of young talent and the support of an entire team and what you've got is a recipe for success and a formula that the Illinois cross country team has followed to victory. Specifically, senior Jaime Turilli and sophomore Cassie Hunt have each brought something to each other and the entire Fighting Illini squad which and have pushed each other to triumphs both on and off the path.

After a first place finish at the 5K Saluki Invitational on October the 10th, Hunt was awarded her second consecutive Big Ten Conference Player of the Week honors. At the Pre-Nationals Invitational on October 16, 2004, Hunt finished seventh out of 246 and broke her own school record in the process, clocking in at 20:28.7 for the 6K race. Hunt has attributed her recent success to llinois head coach Karen Harvey and to Turilli.

"Jaime has pushed me in every workout this season," explained Hunt. "That has pushed both of us to an entirely different level this year."

Turilli has been playing follow the leader for the past few weeks as she has finished behind Hunt in the past two meets. At the Saluki Invite she finished second only 20 seconds behind Hunt while at Pre-Nationals the Bloomington, Illinois native finished 40th with a time of 21:24.5.

Illinois senior Jaime Turilli and sophomore Cassie Hunt talk more about their team, the difficulties of their sport and other assorted topics, including vacuums. The duo will be competing for Illinois at the upcoming Big Ten championships on October 31st in Iowa City.
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"All of our hard work and dedication is paying off," added Turilli. "We are all pushing each other in practice and it shows in a race like the one at Southern when seven of us ran personal bests."

While Turilli may be closing out her collegiate career, Hunt's college experience is only just beginning. However, both of them have gotten far more than they bargained for when the signed on at Illinois.

"I think it has gone way beyond what I expected," explained Turilli about her college career. "Before I came to school here I really wasn't sure if I'd be able to compete at this level. After I finally gained some confidence, I realized I could."

Despite only being only a sophomore, Hunt has ready exceeded the toughest expectations that were placed on her - her own.

"My college career has gone way beyond what I expected," noted Hunt. "In high school, I never knew any conference or national rankings of individuals or teams, so my goals and expectations coming in were never in terms of that. All I wanted to do was run faster, and then before I knew it I was at NCAAs."

While both runners have competed against each other, they each have a lot of respect and admiration for what the other is accomplishing.

"Jaime has such a positive attitude," Hunt added. "She has had to overcome quite a few obstacles to get where she is, and we all can take something from that. She's just a great role model."

Not only are the underclassmen learning something from Turilli and the other Illini veterans, but they are bringing a new dimension and their own style to Champaign.

"Cassie and the other young runners on the team have brought in a lot of talent and really made us a much deeper team," said Turilli. "It's really great to have someone to train side-by-side with and to really have the whole team around you in workouts. We push each other to a whole new level."

If the tandem continues their success, that next level could be a Big Ten Conference championship for Illinois at the cross country championships in Iowa City at the end of the month.