Illini open season winning

By Regina Spachner

While much of campus was busy vacationing this past week, 14 Illini traveled to Tucson, Ariz., to compete in their first outdoor track meets of the 2005 season.

Four women represented Illinois at the Arizona Heptathlon last Thursday and Friday.ÿAccording to assistant coach Tonja Buford-Bailey, the four finished in third, fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.

“We had a pretty solid performance by our athletes,” Buford-Bailey said. “Now we know what to expect. We now see where each girl is at, and what areas they need to work on.”

The heptathlon is comprised of seven events: the 100-meter hurdles, long jump, shot put, javelin throw, 200-meter run, 800-meter run and the high jump. Each individual’s marks are combined to create an overall score.

Partaking in this collegiate event was new for some of the women, while routine for others. Sophomore Kristina Jones scored in the heptathlon at last year’s Big Ten Championships, while junior teammate Lauren Shimmon scored in the same event in 2003, but did not compete last year due to injury.

“It felt awesome to be back competing,” Shimmon said. “Halfway through I realized that it was my first meet back. It’s great to be back.”

Junior Rachael Gliottoni and freshman Alondra Cooper joined the Illini heptathletes this year.

Ten other Illini competed in the Jim Click Shootout Saturday. Freshman Mariesa Greene won the javelin throw and the high jump, earning a regional qualifying mark in the high jump.

Greene’s jump of 1.75-meters earned her the title in the high jump, while senior Shanna Pickett finished second. Pickett earned a regional qualifying mark in the long jump, and junior Nina Henson also gained a regional qualifying jump in the triple jump.

Freshmen Ashley Hanshaw and Amanda Pintaro finished second and fourth respectively in the pole vault. The 4×400-meter relay of junior Natalie Young, freshman Tiffany Nesfield, senior Laura Gerke and Pickett, placed second.

The distance runners did not compete in either meet.

The team now has the next two weeks free from competition before heading to UCLA on April 8-9ÿto compete at the Rafer Johnson Invitational in Los Angeles.

“We’re going to train hard for UCLA during the next two weeks,” Buford-Bailey said. “This meet gave us an idea of where we’re at and what to concentrate on for our next meet in two weeks.”