4x400m relay team regionally qualifies

By Kevin Olsen

Although All-American Gakologelwang Masheto was still out recovering from a stress fracture in his foot, the Illinois men’s track and field team did not a miss a beat in the 4×400 meter relay on Saturday.

Even without its best 400-meter runner, the relay team became the Illini’s second NCAA regional qualifier, posting a time of three minutes, 9.65 seconds to win the event at the SEmotion Relays in Cape Girardeau, Mo. The team of Brandon Gray, Gary Miller, Dan Jones and Yawusa Kinda joined Dominique Worsley (100 meters) as regional qualifiers for Illinois. Jones recorded the best split time of the relay, finishing in 46.6 seconds.

“He is a big asset to our team,” Miller said about Masheto. “But our freshman, Dan Jones, stepped up big time and he really ran hard. With him, myself, Brandon Gray and Yawusa Kinda, I think we’re picking up on the same thing and running like workhorses.”

Miller was also a winner in the 400-meter hurdles. It was the first time he competed in the event and took home the title with a time of 53.34 seconds.

“The goal going into the race was not to fall,” Miller said about his first attempt in the event. “To go away with a 53.34 and win the race along with the relay was great.”

Miller is looking to add the 400 hurdles to his list of events, along with the 800 meters, in which he did not compete this weekend. He will look to continue his success in the outdoor season in all events next weekend in Tennessee.

As a team, Illinois recorded four event victories, including sophomore Greg Shroka’s first-place finish in the high jump for the second consecutive meet. He matched last week’s jump of 6 feet, 6 3/4 inches, as he looks to move past disappointing indoor season results hampered by shin splints.

“It feels good to come out and win the first two meets,” Shroka said. “Even though I didn’t jump as well as I wanted to, it was still nice to get a win. I’m a little healthier now, so it’s making it a little easier to jump.”

Sophomore Scott Phelps was the team’s other winner, taking the 800 meters in a time of 1:56.18. Brian Beaird finished second in the 1,500 meters, while freshman Will Schaeffer claimed second place in the pole vault.

“We are on track and making progress, but we aren’t quite where we need to be,” said head coach Wayne Angel in a press release. “If we continue to improve each week we’ll be OK, but we need to do more collectively as a team to be successful at the Big Ten level.”

Illinois will travel to Knoxville, Tenn., next weekend to compete in the Sea Ray Relays.