PEORIA, Ill. -- Detweiller Park will serve as the site for the Bradley men's and women's cross country teams' season openers Friday, with the 26th running of the Bradley Open. The women's three-mile race is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., while the men's 8K will begin at 6:15 p.m.
Both squads look to open the season on a high note as they have both expanded not only in numbers - adding a total of 20 freshmen between the two teams, but also in depth.
"It's a much different team," said Marc Burns, Bradley cross country/track and field coach. "When you watch the team; it's amazing in just how much it's grown. We are heads and tails above where we've been in years past."
According to Burns, the main strides made by the team over the last year have brought the program to a new place in terms of its depth. Burns feels the added depth will help further push the development of the individuals and the team as a whole.
Among the multiple new faces of Bradley cross country are many notable athletes. To say there is strength in numbers, however, might be an understatement, as some of the runners come in two's.
On the roster for men's and women's cross country are three sets of twins, sophomores Emily and Eric Delvo (Springfield, Ill./Sacred Heart Griffin), freshmen Kristen and Caitlin Busch (Waterloo, Ill./Freeburg) and freshmen Ashley and Caitlin Pribble (Morton, Ill./Morton).
For the Busch sisters, though, running on the same team is far from out of the ordinary.
"We've run together since preschool, so it's nothing new." Caitlin Busch said. "It would be weird not to be together. It would be weird running against each other at different schools."
Eric and Emily Delvo share a slightly different experience as paternal twins. But nonetheless, they remain close and contribute positively to the team as a unit.
"It probably would have been different if we had gone to separate schools," Emily Delvo said. "But coming in [to Bradley], I knew I had someone there no matter what. Now that we have a year under our belts, it's cool to see that he and I still hang out and spend time together."
Burns has seen the addition of the Delvo's as something that has brought the athletes on his team closer in general.
"Any time you have relatives in the program, it gives that added dimension to the men's and women's programs," coach Burns said. "We've got twins on either team, which adds to the dimension of being a whole team and a whole program."
Friday's meet will prove the first test for the Braves when they go head-to-head with 10 other teams, including Indiana State, Iowa and Illinois State. Joining the four Division I teams in the field are Eureka College, Harper College, Illinois Central, Illinois College, Illinois Wesleyan, Morton College and Quincy College.
"There's a lot of history in this meet," Burns said. "It's taken us a couple years to build the numbers back up, but a goal of ours is to build it up to the way it was years ago. Our kids are chomping at the bit to race. It will be a great battle."
You can catch the Braves in action Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Detweiller Park in the first of two home meets on the schedule. Bradley will also host the ninth annual Bradley Classic Oct. 12 at Newman Golf Course.