Women’s track sends four to nationals

By Jason Grodsky

Four Illini from the women’s track and field team qualified for nationals over the weekend after solid performances on the final day of the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships in Columbia, Mo.

Despite only competing in 10 of the 19 events over the weekend, the Illini still managed to total 30 points and finish seventh in the team standings behind national qualifying performances from seniors Camile Robinson, Carlene Robinson and Yvonne Mensah and junior LaNeisha Waller.

“We had some very solid performances this weekend,” head coach Gary Winckler said. “We’re pleased to have four qualify for the NCAA Championships.”

Waller got the Illini started on the right track with a personal-best time of 13.18 seconds in the 100-meter hurdles, earning her fourth-place, five team points and her first trip to nationals.

The Robinson sisters then followed Waller’s performance with spectacular showings of their own, running season-best times in the 400-meter hurdles. Camile Robinson finished a team-best third on the weekend with a time of 56.71 and Carlene Robinson finished right behind her sister with a time of 56.76.

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“The twins did a super job,” Winckler said. “Their runs have gotten better each week, and they both ran their top time of the season (Saturday).”

Mensah was the only Illini to qualify for nationals in the field. The senior qualified in the triple jump, scoring five points for the team by finishing fourth with a mark of 42 feet, 5 1/4 inches.

“Yvonne was disappointed with how things went in the 100 yesterday, but she came back and took care of business in the triple jump,” Winckler said. “She did exactly what she needed to move on to nationals.”

Illinois also received points awarding performances from sophomore Briana Cunningham, who placed seventh in the 400-meter hurdles, and the 4×100-meter relay team. The team consisting of junior Tiara Armstrong, Waller, Carlene Robinson and Mensah finished fifth with a time of 45.42 seconds to earn the Illini four points.

Finally, junior Mariesa Greene earned Illinois three points with a six-place finish in the javelin.

“I’m a bit surprised that we finished as high as we did,” Winckler said. “We’re pleased with seventh-place because there were other events we could have scored in had we entered them.”

The four Illini who advanced to the NCAA Outdoor Championships will wait for the rest of the field to be set with the at-large selections announced on Tuesday and will then start making their final preparations for the upcoming championship on June 6-9 in Sacramento, Calif.

“Our approach to regionals was to concentrate on qualifying our athletes for nationals in the events in which they want to compete,” Winckler said. “When you consider what they’ve already done for us, we support their focus on individual accomplishments at this time of year.”