Track turns focus to home meet, Central Collegiates

Tim Eggerding

Tim Eggerding

By Troy Murray

Although their season is only a month old, the early results have given the men’s track team a lot of reasons for optimism. They won five of nine events at the Hoosier Open on Jan. 8 and won this weekend’s Illinois Invitational.

Junior Tim Hobbs won the 800m in a time of 1:52.68. The 4x400m relay made up of juniors Adrian Walker and Abe Jones, and sophomores Nathan Vadeboncoeur and Zach Glavash took first. Both sophomore Seth Pilkington and freshman Nick Brown made their indoor track debuts for the Illini at the Illinois Invitational. Pilkington placed second in the 3,000m with a time of 8:14.59 while Nick Brown placed second in the long jump.

But second year coach Wayne Angel said it wasn’t just about the Illini placing well in most of its events and winning its second official meet.

“I was primarily looking at the level of intensity of the athletes, also their competitiveness, and most importantly the team unity,” said Angel. “We’re working on getting the team together and building that cohesiveness. Once you can do that, you can raise the team to a higher level when it comes time to compete down the road.”

Earlier this week, Walker, Clint Cherco and Jason Bill were named captains. The three athletes were voted to the position by their fellow teammates, and Walker said the title comes with some responsibility.

“I definitely think it’s an honor,” said Walker. “Coach Angel and all the other coaches stress being a student first. I try to set a good example by getting things taken care of in the classroom, then also coming out on the track and giving it my best by helping the team out in any way I can.”

The team now turns its focus to Central Collegiates at home this weekend, where Mid-American Conference track champion Kent State will compete. Junior All-American Mike Inge, who is considered one of the top middle distance runners in the country, will compete for the Golden Flashes this weekend. As a sophomore last year, Inge qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials in the 800m, but finished ninth and just missed qualifying for finals.

Junior Tramell Smith, one of Illinois’ top middle distance runners, will be competing against Inge this weekend, but views the race as any other.

“I get up for every race,” said Smith. “He’s got a faster time, but I’ve never raced him head-to-head. I’m always confident I’m going to win so it’s just extra incentive this time. I treat it as any other race though.”

“It’ll be a good meet,” said Angel. “Hopefully we’ll be able to overcome some things because of our depth and we have some very talented individuals, too.”

Walker, an All-American last year as a sophomore sprinter, said the competition shouldn’t be the main focus.

“No matter what schools are there, I’m just going to still go out there and give 100 percent,” said Walker.