Good marks up for grabs as men’s track heads south

 

 

By Kevin Olsen

Leaving the Champaign rain behind for the sunny skies of the South, the Illinois men’s track and field team will attempt to keep its impressive start to the outdoor season intact.

Illinois began its season at chilly Southern Illinois before traveling to Missouri last weekend, but will have its first warm-weather meet of the season when the Illini travel to Knoxville, Tenn., for the Sea Ray Relays.

“This is a great opportunity and certainly we want to take advantage of it,” head coach Wayne Angel said. “Down South, out West – you always run faster.”

The 4×400 meter relay team has already put up NCAA regional qualifying marks, as has Dominique Worsley in the 100 meters, along with numerous individuals who have won events in the first two meets of the outdoor season.

“I think the most important thing is for the athletes to stay passionate about their goals,” Angel said. “They know this is the week if it’s going to happen to get regional qualifying, and we have quite a few guys who are going to have that opportunity.”

Angel believes Yawusa Kinda and Brandon Gray will both have a good opportunity to qualify in the 400 meters. They are also part of the 4×400 team that will have a chance to improve on its qualifying mark of 3 minutes, 9.65 seconds. It could also be a big day for sophomore Worsley, who comes in with a qualifying time of 10.54 seconds in the 100 meters.

“I think it’s going to help a lot,” Worsley said about the warm weather. “It’s going to be huge events for me and everyone else. In the 100, I think the weather is going to be good conditions and the competition is going to be good to be able to beat my PR, which is 10.41.”

Worsley will compete in the 100 and 200 meters, as well as part of the 4×100 and 4×200 relays. He is looking to run the 200 meters in less than 21 seconds, which would easily pass the qualifying time of 21.35. He has already competed well in colder conditions and is looking to lead the team in a meet featuring tougher competition, but a better environment.

“It’s something that’s well known to the whole team that competing in the cold is harder, so I think it makes us tougher,” Worsley said. “It’s like training with a weight vest on, and when you take it off you’re going to be better, faster, stronger. So I think everyone else holds that mentality, so it’s going to be good for us.”

Angel is hoping to get more production out of his athletes in the field events, but All-American Nick Brown will not be competing this weekend.

Junior Gary Miller, who highlighted Illinois’ performance last week with victories in two events, will compete in the 400-meter hurdles, the 800 meters as well as part of the 4×400 and 4×800 relays.

“We need to start seeing action on the field events and the distance events to bring this team together before Big Ten,” Angel said.

The Sea Ray Relays will start Friday morning and go throughout the day before resuming Saturday morning and concluding later in the day.