Track sends representatives to indoor championships

By Kevin Olsen

With the NCAA Track and Field Indoor Championships looming, this weekend’s meet will be the last chance for Illini athletes to earn a spot for nationals.

The women head to Iowa State in hopes of qualifying, while the men travel to Notre Dame.

The women are only sending senior LaNeisha Waller in the 60-meter hurdles and the distance medley relay team of Angela Bizzarri, Rachel Hernandez, Danelle Woods and Omoye Ugiagbe to Ames, Iowa. Both Waller and the relay team have hit provisional qualifying marks, but will need to lower their times to be ranked high enough to participate in nationals. The list for the times that qualified for nationals will be released Monday.

“We’re just going to try to get them qualified for nationals, that’s the goal,” Winckler said. “LaNeisha has run 8.15 before. She just has to get a good race to get there.”

The distance medley relay team finished with a school-record time of 11 minutes, 26.71 seconds Feb. 8 at Notre Dame. Winckler expects they will have to run around 11:14 this weekend to be ranked high enough to qualify.

“If all four race what they have been running in the open meets, they can make that mark,” Winckler said. “Some of them were ill the last time we ran at Notre Dame, so they are capable of doing it.”

Winckler expects that Aja Evans’ school record in the shot put will be good enough to go to nationals, as well as Bizzarri’s time in the mile.

The men will send only a handful of athletes to Notre Dame, with Dominique Worsley and Nick Brown the ones to keep an eye on. Worsley will be competing in the 60- and 200-meters, while Nick Brown will have to improve on his triple jump by almost a foot to qualify high enough for nationals.

Worsley set a school record in the 60 meters last week to provisionally qualify with a time of 6.72 seconds. Head coach Wayne Angel believes Worsley is going to have to get his time down to 6.69 and 21.1 seconds in the 200 meters to rank high enough.

“He is going to have to run his best and hopefully have a major breakthrough. It’s just one of those years in the 60-meter dash that it’s just phenomenal,” Angel said of the times other runners have put up this year.

Worsley may be the Illini’s best chance at competing at next week’s indoor championship.

Junior All-American Gakologelwang Masheto would have had an opportunity to win an indoor title in the 400 meters but will sit out the rest of the indoor season with a foot injury.

“With Masheto, we are just shutting him down so he can get healthy,” Angel said. “We don’t want to jeopardize his outdoor chances at a national championship.”

The other four men competing will be Mike Murray, Gary Miller, Brian Beaird and Scott Phelps. Angel is bringing them as “a reward for a nice job they did at Big Ten’s.”

Angel has reached nationals the majority of his seasons at Illinois, but it may not happen unless Worsley can improve on his school record.

“Anything can happen, we hope for the best,” Angel said. “If it happens, it happens, but we are appreciative of everything (Worsley) has done up (to) this point and the same with Nick Brown.”