All-American Masheto returns, contributes to impressive relays

By Kevin Olsen

Illinois did not add to their record number of titles at the Drake Relays last weekend, but the meet was officially the first of the outdoor season for All-American Gakologelwang Masheto.

Masheto had not competed since March 2 at the Big Ten Indoor Championships but was back in action and his 4×400 relay team was the Illini’s highlight of the prestigious meet.

“It wasn’t bad after training for only a week,” Masheto said. “I think for our overall performance that we did well because the weather was not that great.”

The relay team of Masheto, Brandon Gray, Gary Miller and Yawusa Kindafinished fifth in a time of 3 minutes, 7.82 seconds. But it was an exciting finish, with the second through fifth teams all finishing within sixth tenths of a second of each other. The time was an improvement of the relay team’s season best time, and they still possess the fastest time in the Big Ten.

Masheto ran his split in a time of 46.4 seconds, and head coach Wayne Angel believes he is already ahead of schedule on his recovery from a stress fracture in his foot. Masheto still has a very good chance of defending his Big Ten title in the 400-meters, even if he is not at full strength.

“Our relay team had been doing well even without me, but when I came in immediately people were expecting more from me,” Masheto said. “So when I go in there and do my job, I am aiming for something around 3:04 or 3:05.”

Masheto was scheduled to run in the sprint medley relay as well, but cold weather the morning of the race kept him out as a precautionary measure. The sprint medley relay still finished sixth in his absence.

“Just seeing (Masheto) out there running again gave a strong sense of hope for the program in terms of the sprint area and what he can do individually, as well as in the relays, because he is an inspiration to all that are on that team,” Angel said. “Based on what he did this past weekend, I know he’s going to have a great season. He’s not as far behind as I thought he was. He’s a very talented individual.”

As for Illini individuals, sophomore Greg Shroka led the way in the high jump. He tied for sixth place with a jump of 6 feet, 8 3/4 inches. Sophomore Rob Pykosz and senior Michael Kelley finished 12th and 14th in the 3,000 meters steeplechase, respectively.

Sophomore Michael Murray finished third in the 1,500 meters in a personal best time of 3:53.47, with teammate Jared Richardson finishing behind him in sixth in a time of 3:55.94.

“The only concern I have right now is collectively, as a team, we need to start stepping up on the field event side and the distance events,” Angel said. “We haven’t fared as well as I hope we would, and we don’t have a whole lot of time.”

Illinois will compete next at home on Wednesday in the Illinois Twilight meet. Action will start at 2 p.m. at the Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium.