DANVILLE — Big expectations were in place for Danville’s Mercedes Elliott. She was the favorite to win this year’s Big 12 Conference cross country championship, and after last season’s third place finish, everything seemed to be in place.
She was beat last year by only Normal West’s Emily Brelsfoard and Normal Community’s Carly Pederson. Both were seniors, leaving Elliott as the field’s top returning competitor.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t Elliott’s day, and she finished in fifth with a time of 18 minutes, 51 seconds behind Danielle Beckstead (Normal Community), Hannah Wright (Champaign Central), Andrea Gordon (Normal West), and Rebecca Kaefring (Champaign Centennial).
Beckstead was clocked at 18:21.
“I just didn’t do well,” Elliott said. “I know that. Hopefully by the time of regionals, which is this next weekend, I can do better.”
Elliott won both the regional and sectional title last year, and her goal was to add a conference title to that list. She had been battling with Wright all season, and fell short in each race. Prior to Saturday’s race, none of that mattered. This was going to be Elliott’s time to finish ahead of her new rival, and her initial mindset was just that.
“This whole week before Big 12 I was telling myself I could beat her,” Elliott said. “Even during the race I kept telling myself I could beat her. But, it was just that last stretch, I don’t know.
“She slipped away from me. She wasn’t that far ahead of me, but after she got a little bit ahead of me, I just told myself I couldn’t keep up. Just mentally (couldn’t finish strong).”
Elliott ran at the front of the pack for much of the race, and Danville coach Todd Orvis felt as though everything was going as planned.