Duo honored as All-Americans

By Regina Spachner

Sophomores Cassie Hunt and Yvonne Mensah continued to lead the Illini in the final indoor track and field meet of the season. Despite never participating in the NCAA Indoor Championships before, both women earned All-American Honors at this year’s Indoor Championship.

“This was the first indoor national meet for all four athletes,” said head coach Gary Winckler. “It’s different than outdoor nationals by far. Yvonne and Cassie did a great job. They ran very smart.”

Hunt finished eighth in the 3,000-meter run with a time of 9:26.99 minutes, while Mensah’s 60-meter hurdles finishing time of 8.27 seconds also earned her eighth place.

This is Hunt’s second All-American honor. She earned her first one at the 2004 NCAA Outdoor Championships after finishing 10th in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Even though this meet was the largest and most competitive one of the season, Mensah says she was not very nervous going into the race.

“This was a meet I was most relaxed at,” Mensah said. “I was going in ranked 13 or 14, so I had no pressure on me. No one really expected anything for me. I think it helped too that we already competed at that track this season.”

Mensah had one goal in mind going into this past weekend’s meet.

“I just wanted to make the finals,” Mensah said. “I got the last spot, but I got into the finals.”

Sophomore Carlene Robinson and junior Nina Henson also represented the Illini at the championship meet. Robinson ran the 800-meter run, while Henson competed in the triple jump.

The NCAA Championship meet marked the end of the indoor track season.

Looking back on the indoor season, Winckler says the team finished better than he had anticipated.

Mensah agrees.

“I just wanted to make the NCAA finals so bad this season,” Mensah said. “But you can never settle there. You have to take it one step further every time.”

Now the team has a few weeks free from competition before the outdoor season begins.

“It’s time to catch up on academics,” Winckler said. “A few athletes will be going to Arizona during spring break for the Heptathlon. We’re going to rest and regroup for the outdoor season.”