Illinois takes second at Big Ten Championships

By Regina Spachner

According to head coach Gary Winckler, the women’s track and field team was shooting to capture third place at this weekend’s Big Ten Championship meet in Ann Arbor, Mich.

He said that if the team performed well they should earn about 90-95 points.

The team exceeded that predicted number in its two days of competition by finishing with 117 points and taking the second-place conference spot.

“We felt really good about the meet,” Winckler said. “There were a few disappointments, but also a lot of nice surprises. The nicest thing was the balanced scoring. We scored in every event we entered in.”

The Illini held a fourth-place finish after their first day of competition Saturday. Senior Jaime Turilli and freshman LaNeisha Waller boosted the Illini by finishing second in their respective events. Turilli finished second in the 3000 meter run, while sophomore teammate Cassie Hunt finished third. Waller took second place in the long jump.

The distance medley team of seniors Tabitha Volling and Laura Gerke and freshmen Erin Frommeyer and Rachel Hernandez ran the fourth-fastest time in school history in their event. The relay team captured sixth place overall.

On Sunday, performances by sophomore Yvonne Mensah, Waller and freshman Tiffany Nesfield in the 60 meter hurdles helped the Illini capture the lead from Michigan. Mensah won the event for the second consecutive year in a row with a finishing time of 8.24 seconds, while teammates Waller and Nesfield finished fourth and sixth, respectively. Sophomore Carlene Robinson also took first in the 800-meter run. Despite the top performances, the Illini were unable to hold onto the lead.

Turilli and Hunt captured second and third places respectively in the 5,000-meter run, while the 4×400 meter relay took first in the closing event of the meet, but the finishes were not enough to grab the first place title from the Wolverines.

“We knew that it was going to be tough to beat Michigan at home,” Winckler said. “But we had Michigan scared which was nice.”

There is one remaining indoor meet in two weeks that the Illini may be taking part in. A number of the women have provisionally qualified for the NCAA Championship meet and will wait and see if their markings are enough to compete.

The athletes find out a week from today whether or not they will compete at nationals. Until then, the women will continue training.

“We’ll take tomorrow off and then continue training,” Winckler said. “The ones that are in the running for nationals will continue training in competition mode, and the others will begin preparing for outdoors.”