Men’s track improves chances for Nationals

By Troy Murray

The men’s track team competed in the Alex Wilson Last Chance Invite this weekend in South Bend, Ind., but it’s still unsure how many athletes will be competing next weekend at the NCAA Indoor Championship.

Freshman long jumper Nick Brown and the 4x400m relay improved their chances of going to the NCAA Indoor Championship on Friday in Fayetteville, Ark.

Brown set a new personal-best in the long jump with a leap of 24’11.75″, good for sixth on Illinois’ all-time list. Going into the weekend, Brown’s previous best was 24’07.75″ and was ranked 23rd in the nation. He moved up to 14th overall, which greatly improves his chances of qualifying for the National Championship meet.

“This helps me out a lot,” Brown said. “It gives me a confidence booster and tells me that I’m ready to step up to the next level.”

The 4x400m relay of sophomore Nathan Vadeboncoeur and juniors Tra Smith, Adrian Walker and Abe Jones won the event in 3:07.54, falling just short of the school record. Before this weekend, the relay’s best time was 3:11.95 and was ranked 12th in the nation. The new best time set this weekend bumped the relay up to 11th overall.

“I think overall, we’ve performed as well as I could expect from these guys,” said head coach Wayne Angel.

Junior Steve Weatherford, who placed third at the Big Ten Championships and broke the school record in the heptathlon, is also on the brink of a national championship appearance.

But the Illini will have to wait to find out who will be joining sophomore Zach Glavash. Glavash, who runs the 800m, was the only automatic qualifier for the Illini.

Although the team looks as if they will be taking three individuals and a relay to nationals, head coach Wayne Angel said he will be counting on “Lady Luck.”

Last year, 11 relay teams were invited to compete at the national championship meet, while 14 long jumpers and heptathletes were invited.

Angel said that he understands anything can happen with the invites, but still appreciates what his athletes have accomplished this season.

“Overall this has been a great season,” Angel said. “This is just the icing on the cake, we’re waiting for one more race and one more opportunity to bring some All-Americans home.”