Illinois heads into Nebraska coming off strong showing

Illinois runners Trent Hoerr (7), Jacob Nachel (12) and Dan Kremske (11) run the 1 mile in the Carle/Health Alliance Classic on Saturday. Erica Magda

Johnny Chiang

Illinois runners Trent Hoerr (7), Jacob Nachel (12) and Dan Kremske (11) run the 1 mile in the Carle/Health Alliance Classic on Saturday. Erica Magda

By Kevin Olsen

A tough test awaits the Illinois men’s track and field team this weekend when it travels to Lincoln, Neb., for the Husker Invitational. The Illini will compete against 21 other schools, including 2007 outdoor national champion and No. 1-ranked Florida State, No. 6 Nebraska, No. 8 Baylor and No. 12 Arizona.

Illinois is coming off a dominant performance in the Carle/Health Alliance Classic, where it captured an easy victory and recorded victories in 10 events.

Head coach Wayne Angel said this meet will be a real measuring point as to where his team is and how far it can go. Angel said it will be one of the most talented fields the Illini will compete in until the Big Ten Championship.

“We are going to find out what level we are at right now. When we find out what level we’re at, we can find out how we need to prepare for the Big Ten and Nationals,” Angel said.

Illinois will be running all of its athletes in their best events this week as it tries to earn provisional and automatic qualifying marks for nationals. Angel said he believes Lesiba Masheto in the 400 meters, Dominque Worsley in the 60 and 200 meters, and Nick Brown in the long jump have a great opportunity to get provisional qualifiers.

Masheto has only run his signature event once this season and will compete against Baylor’s Quentin Iglehart-Summers who owns the fastest 400 time in the nation this season at 46.77 seconds.

Junior Gary Miller will be running in the 800 meters and as he looks to improve on a season where he has already garnered three victories.

“The only thing we have changed this week is the intensity in practice,” Angel said. “We need to step it up knowing that we are getting into a higher level of competition. We are getting them ready mentally as well as physically.”

Junior Andrew Zollner will be competing in the heptathlon and the individual pole vault this weekend, as he attempts to reach the 17-feet-1 provisional mark following consecutive first-place finishes in the pole vault.

“All I’m trying to do is jump higher and higher each week,” Zollner said. “That would be the goal for any week. I would like to jump a little higher. I’m hoping to put up a good mark in the heptathlon, and then maybe come out and run the 60 hurdles.”

Competing alongside Zollner in the pole vault will be surprise freshman Will Schaeffer. Schaeffer finished second behind Zollner last week and is looking to keep his confidence up against top competition. Schaeffer contemplated redshirting earlier in the year but has performed well so far this season.

“I have to try not to let anything get to my head,” Schaeffer said. “I can’t worry about what other people are doing. The experience is going to be huge for me for later meets.”

The Husker Invitational starts Friday and will continue through Saturday.