Worsley, Waller start track season off right

 

 

By Kevin Olsen

The indoor season is officially behind the Illinois track and field teams, as the men and women turned out impressive performances to bolster the start of the outdoor track season.

While the women traveled to Coral Gables, Fla., the men did not have the sun on their side. The men battled the chilly weather conditions at Southern Illinois University en route to a team title, nine individual event titles and the erasing of any memories of a disappointing indoor season.

“Basically, you have to run cold, and it’s not the safest thing as far as injuries are concerned, and it’s not the best weather for top performance,” sophomore Dominique Worsley said. “You are not going to perform at your best in cold weather … it was good, however, to qualify regionally in such cold weather.”

Worsley was the sole regional qualifier on the day for the Illini, winning the 100 meters in 10.54 seconds. Sophomore Brandon Gray was the other big winner for Illinois, recording victories in the 400 meters as well as the 4×400 relay.

The Illini men did not face the stiffest of competition and were able to take the team crown from the six-school field. They finished with 205 points, beating out host Southern Illinois (188.5).

Other winners for Illinois included Brian Beaird in the 800 meters, Josh Gist in the 110 meter hurdles, Will Schaeffer in the pole vault, Greg Shroka in the high jump, Jacob Nachel in the 1,500 meters and Mike Murray in the 5,000 meters.

Meanwhile, the women faced tougher competition in sunny Florida weather, but came away with six regional qualifying marks. The star of the day was easily LaNeisha Waller, who won two events and finished third in the 4×100 relay. She regionally qualified in the 100 meter hurdles, the long jump and the 4xl00 relay team.

“We have really good leadership from our seniors on the team. Tiara Armstrong and LaNeisha Waller had really good days,” Winckler said. “It was a good meet for us in general. I think I was most pleased by the way people competed this weekend. They really went out and competed well against some very good programs.”

The meet was not scored, but the Illini recorded four event victories, as well as 14 top-5 finishes, in a field that featured No. 13 Florida, No. 21 Tennessee and No. 24 Miami (Fla.).

“We have a lot of depth right now and the sprint core is so young,” Winckler said. “The depth is showing its presence, and that’s going to bode well for this team for the rest of the year.”

Other regional qualifiers included Tiara Armstrong, Aja Evans and Jessica Penney. Armstrong and Evans were part of the 4×100 relay team. Armstrong qualified in the 200 meters, while Evans recorded a victory in the shot put with a qualifying mark of 51 feet three-fourths inches. Penney qualified in the long jump, finishing third.

Freshman Melissa Bates won the triple jump, and pole vaulters Jackie Zeigler and Amanda Pintaro finished in second and third, respectively.

“Anytime you perform well and you keep improving week by week, it aids everyone’s confidence,” Winckler said.

The women will be off until April 12, when they travel to Arizona State for the Sun Angel Track Classic. The men will compete next Saturday in the SEMO relays at Southeast Missouri State.