Women’s track hurdles foes at Classic

Erica Magda

Erica Magda

By Kevin Olsen

The Illinois women’s track and field team kept its early season momentum going after easily winning the Carle/Health Alliance Classic on Saturday at the Armory. Facing an eight-team field, the Illini won seven events and finished with 197 points, well ahead of Southern Illinois (116) and Tennessee State (77).

The meet also featured two provisional national qualifiers for the Illini. Sophomore Alicia Beckford-Stewart won the pentathlon with a career-best 3,838 points. Sophomore Aja Evans beat her personal best in the shot put by almost four feet and finished first with a distance of 53 feet 3 3/4 inches.

“I thought we had a really good team effort today,” head coach Gary Winckler said. “We had a lot of personal bests … all and all I thought it was a great meet.”

Saturday also marked the first meet of the season for senior LaNeisha Waller, who finished second in the 60-meter hurdles and the long jump. Teammate Nikkita Holder edged out Waller in the hurdles by .01 seconds after running a personal best time of 8.48 seconds.

“I need to go a little lower,” Holder said about reaching her goal of a national qualifying mark. “Hopefully I can get it down so I can go to Nationals.”

It was Waller’s first time participating in the long jump since 2005. She finished second with a jump of 19 feet 6 inches.

“I really wanted to go out there and do my best because that’s my favorite event by far,” Waller said. “On the hurdles I felt like I was at a disadvantage somewhat since I hadn’t run, but I’m happy with it. It’s a nice start.”

Senior Amanda Pintaro finished first in the pole vault for a second consecutive week, matching her personal best with a height of 12 feet 7 1/2 inches. Junior Jackie Ziegler established a personal best in the event and finished second to Pintaro.

Illinois made improvements in the 600 meters, an event in which Winckler initially said players were a little weak. The Illini finished in the top four positions, as senior Rachel Hernandez placed first with a time of 1:36:46, followed by senior Alondra Cooper’s time of 1:37:60.

Freshman Melissa Bates recorded the first victory of her collegiate career with a personal best height of 39 feet 5 1/4 inches in the triple jump. Illini freshmen teammates Chantelle Groenewoud and Stacy Hague finished first and second in the mile, respectively, with Groenewoud clocking in at 5:11:57.

Illinois will be off until Feb. 8 when it heads to the Meyo Invitational at Notre Dame, where the Illini are expected to face a high level of competition.

“We have two weeks to prepare. We’re not going to do a lot of things differently, we’re going to do more of what we’re doing and try to get people improving,” Winckler said.