Women hope to gain valuable experience at Notre Dame invite

By Chris Cook

After winning two home tournaments in dominant fashion the last two weekends, the Fighting Illini women’s track and field team is set to compete in the Meyo Invitational at the University of Notre Dame this weekend.

Despite the success the team has had at home, the athletes said they are not opposed to going on the road. Junior middle distance runner Carlene Robinson said she gets valuable experience from away meets.

“It’s more competitive on the road,” she said. “Being out – you get to see how other athletes work and you get to know where you stand as an individual and as a team.”

Due to the fact that the team will be facing very tough competition, the Illini will have to work even harder for the results they want. Other than Notre Dame, schools such as Michigan State, Wisconsin and Minnesota will all be present at the meet; but the Illini insist that they embrace the challenge.

Freshman sprinter Omoye Ugiagbe said she is motivated by the team’s recent success and excited about this weekend.

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“Better competition will drive you to improve your time,” she said. “It’s all about being all you can be.”

Ugiagbe and Robinson, who are both running in individual competitions, said a great deal of their focus is on the 4×4 relay competition in which they hope to qualify for the NCAA National Meet.

“This weekend the 4×4 is the most important thing because we need to qualify,” Robinson said. “I think it’s important to have dominant relay team as well as good individual athletes.”

This attitude is typical of the team’s success this season as it has gotten good performances in various competitions to produce great overall results.

Sophomore sprinter LaNeisha Waller said the athletes feed off the team chemistry.

“It’s all about results, but you can’t have good results without chemistry first,” she said. “It helps when you compete individually to have teammates that want you to do as well as they’re doing.”

Despite the great overall results, one athlete has managed to stand out.

Junior sprinter Yvonne Mensah was named Big Ten Athlete of the Week after two victories and a second place finish in last weekend’s home tournament.

“It’s definitely a big accomplishment,” Mensah said. “It’s a big deal knowing that you’re noticed not just by your own team but by other schools in the Big Ten as well.”