Hatfield leads EIU cross country with 1 meet left

Alex Hartman, Cross Country Reporter

With only one meet left for the Eastern cross country team before the Ohio Valley Conference championship meet, the team is confident and performing at a high level when it counts.

The team will play this week at the Illini Open at the University of Illinois on Friday.

It is an open meet at the end of the season so that means not many Eastern runners are being sent to it. However, that does not include Eastern’s top two runners competing; freshman rising star Dustin Hatfield and senior standout Maria Baldwin.

Eastern will send a pair of freshman runners from the women’s team, Chloe Irish and Ashley Gilmore.

For the men’s team, Eastern is sending eight total athletes to compete, including sophomore Wylie Anderson, freshman Jeremy Bekkouche, sophomore Joe Carter, sophomore Austin Earp, senior Tyler Keen, among a few other athletes.

The meet will host schools from around the Midwest such as Bradley, Butler, Illinois, Illinois State, Indiana State, Northern Illinois and Purdue.

Although the meet will not feature Eastern’s rising star runner in Dustin Hatfield, he will be able to compete at full strength in the conference championship meet in a week.

Hatfield has been an unexpected bright spot for the cross-country team that burst onto the scene in the first meet of the year. He began his collegiate career with his first-place finish in the meet and had great confidence that he has kept up throughout the year.

“I enjoy the highest level of competition that college provides me, and competing with the team makes me even better,” Hatfield said.

He has definitely filled the void left by the departure of Riley McInerney over the off-season and will look to be the centerpiece and leader of the men’s team for the next few years.

Hatfield has finished in first place for the men’s team on three separate occasions this season and set the freshman 8K record in the meet at Louisville earlier this year. In the most recent meet he finished 20th overall in a large field of runners. He has sparked the team this year and will look to be refreshed after a week off going into the conference meet.

The meet at Illinois Friday will begin at 4 p.m. for the women and 4:40 p.m. for the men’s team.

Alex Hartman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]