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Illinois men’s track taking right steps forward

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Illinois' Cam Viney jumps a hurdle in the Illini Open meet at the Illinois Track Stadium on Wednesday, May 4.

Illinois' Cam Viney jumps a hurdle in the Illini Open meet at the Illinois Track Stadium on Wednesday, May 4.

Brian Bauer

Brian Bauer

Illinois' Cam Viney jumps a hurdle in the Illini Open meet at the Illinois Track Stadium on Wednesday, May 4.

Tatiania Perry, Assistant sports editor

Illinois men’s track has a young team, but to some, that is the biggest appeal of the team.

Head coach Mike Turk said that having young guys means more room for growth and improvement on an already successful team.

Coming off of last season’s Big Ten championship, the Illini had to live up to some expectations coming into the indoor season.

Junior Michael Hyc stepped up into a leadership role and gained confidence in his throws.

“I think some of the big components of that was really just starting to get more experience, moving into more of an upperclassmen position and the confidence in that,” Hyc said.

The thrower finished sixth in both the shot put and weight throw, his first time on board in his career at Illinois.

His success translated nicely to the outdoor season as he threw a nearly four-meter personal best in hammer throw.

The team spent an inordinate amount of time together, whether it be on the track or hanging out.

Freshman Josh Eiker said the team immediately accepted him as part of the Illini family. He explained it as a different atmosphere being around all the guys on the team, like they have been together for years.

Eiker, a member of the 4×100 meter relay team that went sub-40 second in their first outing, a feat they could not do all of last season, has been a welcomed addition to the team.

“I was really excited to come to the University and train with the guys here,” Eiker said. “The reason I came here was the quality of the athletes that were already here, and they are still young, so I knew I could practice with them for a while.”

The team bond is what redshirt senior Dylan Lafond most looked forward to heading back into this season. Last year, he took the outdoor season off to train for the Olympic trials, primarily on his own.

Lafond said the more fun aspect of the sport is training and being around the team. He said doing it all on his own last season was draining.

However, coming back into the swing of things didn’t seem to be much of a challenge for Lafond.

About a month ago, the senior competed in his first steeplechase of the season in California. The goal was to run an average race for a regional qualifying time.

“Going into that race, we were planning on having a really solid race,” Lafond said. “We didn’t really want to blow it out of the water; we didn’t want to leave the race in any sort of fatigue or anything that was going to hurt or jeopardize the season going on.”

Lafond ran an 8:42, earning himself an even better placement.

Next up for the Illini is the Big Ten championships next week.

“I think we should be pretty good,” Eiker said. “We’ve got some stuff together this past week and next week. We will put some things together and hopefully it will all come together next week at Big Tens.”

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