Windy conditions a breeze for men’s track in Tennessee

By Kevin Olsen

The men’s track and field athletes looked to escape the gray skies of Champaign, but met similar conditions in Knoxville, Tenn., this weekend. Once the threat of rain and thunderstorms passed on Friday, the team stepped up their performances and added another NCAA regional qualifying mark.

“We were able to salvage it with some stellar performances from Worsley and the foursome of Kinda, Jones, Miller and Gray in the 4×400,” head coach Wayne Angel said. “These guys continue to amaze me. They are running some very fast times without superstar Masheto.”

Sophomore Dominique Worsley finished fourth in the 200-meters, finishing with a time of 21.11 seconds to post a regional qualifying mark. Worsley had previously qualified in the 100 meters at Southern Illinois.

“I was hoping to go under 21 seconds, but really I wanted to qualify, so that will take some pressure off for the rest of the season,” Worsley said. “Now I don’t have to worry about doing that. Now I can worry about getting my times down and getting ready for the conference.”

Worsley improved on the 100-meters with a personal best time of 10.33 seconds, but that time will not stand for any qualifying purposes due to the presence of a strong wind during the race that gave runners an advantage.

“I feel like I had a major setback in indoor, and my competition before kind of surpassed me, and now I’m on my way back to their level,” Worsley said. “I think I’m getting there. I’m definitely making progress.”

After qualifying last week in Missouri, the 4×400 relay team of Brandon Gray, Dan Jones, Gary Miller and Yawusa Kinda recorded the fastest time in the Big Ten this season. They finished second in a 22-team field with a time of three minutes, 7.98 seconds, bettering their qualifying mark by almost two seconds without All-American Gakologelwang Masheto, who will return next weekend from a stress fracture in his foot.

Also continuing his impressive start to the outdoor season was sophomore Greg Shroka. He finished sixth in the high jump with his best performance of the season, a jump of 6 feet, 8 3/4 inches. He had won the two previous meets in the high jump.

Sophomore Casey Fonnesbeck came just short of his personal best in the shot put, recording a mark of 54 feet, 6 inches to finish third.

“We’re starting to see Greg Shroka and Casey Fonnesbeck starting to get back into form,” Angel said. “Things are look promising right now, but still collectively as a team we have a lot of areas that still haven’t stepped up and done the things necessary for us to be successful at the Big Ten’s.”

Illinois will compete as a split squad next weekend, with some athletes competing in California while the others travel to Kansas.