Track sets strategy heading into finale

By Kevin Olsen

With only one week remaining until the Big Ten Championship, the Illinois men’s track and field team will compete in their final tuneup.

Illinois will travel to Charleston, Ill., to compete in the Friday Night Invitational at Eastern Illinois. It will be a scored meet and the last opportunity for the Illini competitors.

However, many of Illinois’ top athletes will not be competing this weekend, instead resting in preparation for the conference meet next weekend in Madison, Wis. Head coach Wayne Angel said this meet will be used to finalize their travel squad for the Big Ten Championship. Top athletes such as Gakologelwang Masheto, Dominique Worsley and Nick Brown will not be competing as they prepare for Big Ten’s.

Angel believes a number of his athletes have a good chance of taking advantage of the opportunity.

“There are still some holes that need to be filled and some kids that are still on the bubble where this is their last opportunity to make the travel squad,” Angel said. “This meet basically is to give those kids on the bubble a shot to make the travel squad.”

Some of the athletes that are on the “bubble” looking to make the travel squad include Paul Johnson, Azeez Shogbuyi, Durrell Williams and Sean Muldoon.

One of Illinois’ top athletes competing this weekend is freshman Josh Gist in the 60-meter hurdles. Gist has been the team’s best hurdler this year.

Also competing will be sophomores Casey Fonnesbeck in the shot put and Greg Shroka in the high jump. Senior Pierre Bush will be running in the 60-meters as well as competing in the long jump.

“I see this more as a tuneup meet for the Big Ten, and I’m just preparing my body for the Big Ten and get ready to go,” Bush said. “I have to push myself to the best of my abilities.”

Bush is looking to hit a mark of 23 feet in the long jump and run the 60 in 6.8 or 6.9 seconds.

Also in the track events, Scott Phelps will compete in the 600-meters and Dan Jones will run in the 200-meters.

For the distance events, Dan Kremske will be competing in the mile while Mike Kelley and Rob Pykosz will run the 3,000-meters.

“We will have some guys in there just to sharpen their skills,” Angel said.

Angel said the week off will give his top athletes a chance to rest physically and mentally.

Resting athletes will not have to go through the grind of competing, and Angel said it will be a “nice relaxation period to get recharged and hit the track running.”

“When you’re getting ready to peak, you rest,” Angel said. “We’re letting the bodies relax and catch up and whatever little things we need to work on, that’s what we’re doing.”

The field events will start at 2 p.m. with the track events beginning at 3 p.m. and continuing throughout the night.