Men earn high marks in field events

By Steve Contorno

The men’s track team boasts some of the best runners in the Big Ten Conference and has ridden the success of its sprinters to an impressive outdoor season. Coming into Saturday’s meet, only one individual in the field – senior pole vaulter Eric DiSilvestro – had qualified for regionals. But in front of a home crowd at the Illinois Track and Soccer Complex on Saturday, the field athletes finally broke out, posting two regional qualifying marks and three first-place finishes.

Head coach Wayne Angel has been insisting for weeks that the field events would come around. Assistant coach Willie Williams, who oversaw the meet while Angel traveled to Waco, Texas for the Michael Johnson Classic, was encouraged by the results.

“Every week there has been some improvement from our field guys,” Williams said. “Those guys are really working hard and this is what we need. We’re headed in the right direction.”

Competing against athletes from schools throughout the state of Illinois, the Illini were able to take advantage of the warm weather and mild winds and compile several personal-best times. Sophomore Nick Brown posted a personal-best in the triple jump, leaping 15.25 meters, surpassing the regional mark of 15.08 meters.

Versatile sophomore Pierre Bush also hit a personal-best with his long jump of 7.65 meters. The bound took him past the regional qualifying mark of 7.34 meters. Bush, who also took first place in the 100-meter-dash with a season-best time of 10.73, credits hard work in practice to Saturday’s success.

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“I’ve been practicing for a couple of weeks and working with Coach on a few technique things,” Bush said. “It was nice to finally see that pay off and finally be able to use it perfectly.”

Bush also acknowledges competing in front of a home crowd for the first time this season to giving him a boost in his jump.

“A lot of people I knew were at the meet, and that was motivation enough to jump better,” he said.

Also placing first in the field was senior high jumper Charley Kurlinkus. While his jump of 1.98 meters beat the rest of his competition, it was shy of the regional qualifying height of 2.10 meters.

Illinois’ Tramell Smith, who was red-shirted for the outdoor season, competed unattached in the meet and took first in the 800-meter run, beating senior teammate Tim Hobbs. Junior Dan Stock had a personal-best in the 1500-meter run with a time of 3:55.96.

With a growing number of regional qualifiers and the strong showing in the field events, Illinois likes its chances in the conference tournament, which is only two weeks away.

“Right now things are going real well,” Williams said. “Coach Angel is really putting us through the works. We’ve got good leadership and it’s going to be a good meet for us.”