Men’s track scores 3 more regional-qualifier marks at Kansas Relays

By Kevin Olsen

The Illinois men’s track and field team proved it can succeed, even in the face of formidable competition.

The Illini recorded three NCAA regional qualifying marks and the sprint medley relay team won the event at this past weekend’s Kansas Relays.

The relay team of Yawusa Kinda, Dan Jones, Eugene Ellis and Brian Beaird won the sprint medley relay (200 meters, 200 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters) in a time of three minutes, 28.62 seconds. Kinda came close to qualifying in the 400 meters earlier in the season before breaking through this weekend. He finished third in a personal-best time of 46.96 seconds to hit the regional qualifying mark. Kinda was also part of the 4×400 relay team that placed third without Gakologelwang Masheto or Brandon Gray.

“This weekend was very encouraging,” head coach Wayne Angel said in a press release. “As each week goes by, we are making incremental improvements as the guys get fitter and times start to drop. I’m very pleased with our performances and regional qualifiers. We are really looking forward to the Drake Relays and getting some more NCAA regional marks.”

Other NCAA regional qualifiers included sophomore Dominique Worsley and junior Andrew Zollner.

Worsley finished fourth in the 100 meters with a season-best time of 10.50 seconds to improve on his qualifying time, while Zollner finished eighth in the pole vault with a career-best height of 17 feet, 3/4 inches. Zollner competed in the NCAA Championships last year in the pole vault.

“The best part of getting the regional qualifier out of the way is that I can stop worrying about it, and I can relax and have fun with it,” Zollner said.

“Not only that, but I can train a lot harder for the decathlon and not worry about having to get my regional qualifier in the vault.”

Illinois churned out an impressive second-place finish in the 4×1 mile relay at the prestigious meet. The team of Michael Murray, Rob Pykosz, Jared Richardson and Dan Kremske finished in 17:48.96.

Senior Nick Brown competed in the long jump and triple jump for the first time this outdoor season and recorded a third-place finish in the long jump with a mark of 23 feet, 8 inches. Junior Gary Miller finished seventh in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 53.42 seconds.

Illinois had the good fortune of having favorable weather conditions earlier in the week in Champaign to practice in.

The extra time on the outdoor track translated into success for the Illini.

“It was really nice conditions and warm weather,” Zollner said. “Everything panned out at Kansas, it was nice conditions, and having that practice under my belt, when I got back to my long runs, I just felt comfortable with it. I think that made a pretty large difference.”

Away from Kansas, Jacob Nachel and Trent Hoerr competed in Walnut, Calif., with Nachel posting a NCAA regional qualifying time in the 5,000 meters. Nachel finished fifth in a personal-best time of 14:11.39.

The Illini will travel to Des Moines, Iowa, next week for the Drake Relays. Decathlon events will start Wednesday and the meet will continue through Saturday.