Women head into last regular season meet

By Regina Spachner

Women’s track and field has one last stop to make before it competes at the Big Ten Indoor Championships the weekend of Feb. 26. The Illini travel to Fayetteville, Ark., tomorrow to wrap-up their regular indoor season competition.

“This is one of the meets we have been pointing towards through the season,” said head coach Gary Winckler. “We are trying to get some good qualifying marks for the Big Ten’s and NCAA’s.

“Whereas for the first three meets of the year we were looking where the team is going to fit together and gel, these meets in February are focused on trying to get some more competitive times.”

According to Winckler, roughly 22 women will be representing the Illini this weekend at the Tyson Invitational.

“We’re taking all the athletes that we think can be competitive in this environment,” Winckler said. “We’re taking just about everyone that is going to the conference meet, except for maybe two or three individuals, which are going to have a week off this week.”

Much of the team had last weekend off. Only 11 Illini competed at the Meyo Invitational in South Bend, Ind. Despite the small number, seven athletes earned personal bests, and sophomores Cassie Hunt and Carlene Robinson ran NCAA provisional qualifying times and set the school record in the 3000-meter and 800-meter run respectively.

Robinson now holds the 800-meter indoor and outdoor school record.

“It’s a great feeling,” Robinson said. “I’ve worked hard for it, and I’m glad I’ve done it. I hope someone else can come and break it next century. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

Even though she is ranked on top for the Illini in the event, Robinson is still looking to improve.

“I would like to run 2:05 and make the national NCAA qualifying time,” Robinson said. “That way if I don’t do well in the rest of my meets, I’m going to be okay for the rest of the indoor season.”

Sophomore Yvonne Mensah had last weekend off but has high hopes in this final regular season meet.

“It was a nice little break,” Mensah said. “I got a lot of time to think about the race and the competition. I’ve been dreaming about it, rehearsing it over and over again in my head. I’ve been running some of my fastest times in practice so I feel real confident about this weekend. I’m trying to hit that automatic (NCAA qualifying time) in the hurdles.”

This is the second consecutive meet in which the team will get a small glance as to what is to come at the conference meet.

“It is not real important that we are competing against other conference teams,” Winckler said. “Wisconsin, Michigan State and Indiana are going to be there. We saw them both last week, we’re not going to see anyone that we haven’t seen yet.”

Despite both the higher level of competition and conference teams present in Fayetteville, Ark., the Illini will continue to focus on individual performances.

“This is the time of year that we are looking for personal bests,” Winckler said. “We’re just trying to keep everyone focused on what it is that they need to do week by week to eliminate some of the mistakes they have and to continue to build on the strengths that we have. We’re still focused on the conference meet, which is two weeks from now. Things are pretty much going to plan.”