Women’s track returns to host Illinois Twilight

By Anthony Zilis

Traveling thousands of miles in the past month across the country to Florida, Arizona, Kansas and California, the Illinois women’s track and field team will finally have a meet within walking distance when they host Illinois Twilight on Wednesday at 2 p.m. at the Track and Soccer Stadium.

Although this week’s Co-Big Ten Track Athlete of the Week, Angela Bizzarri, will sit out the meet, resting after a spectacular effort in the 5000 meters last weekend, she said it will be a big boost for the Illini to finally run in front of their home crowd.

“I think running a race at home is always exciting,” Bizzarri said. “It’s nice to have fans. It’s nice to have your friends watch you that maybe have never seen you run.”

The meet serves as a final tuneup for the Illini before the Big Ten Championships, also located in Champaign.

“The purpose of (today’s) meet is to get in another quality competition before the Big Ten Championships,” said distance coach Jeremy Rasmussen.

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Although Bizzarri will sit out, fans who come will still be able to watch most of the leading Illini run one final race before the season approaches its final push.

The hometown crowd will be able to see freshman phenom Jessica Penney, as well as senior LaNeisha Waller, in the long jump. Also competing are regional qualifiers Aja Evans in the shot put and Tiara Armstrong in the 100 and 200 meters.

Head coach Gary Winckler said having a home meet before hosting the Big Ten Championships will help on the administrative side.

“It’s going to be something to help our officials get tuned up for the conference meet in two weeks,” Winckler said.

The meet will also be a chance for the Illini to gain exposure, as it will be aired on the Big Ten Network.

Although the meet does not feature any of the nation’s top teams, the lack of competition doesn’t worry Bizzarri.

“The thing is, on our team we have a pretty high level of competition,” Bizzarri said. “There’s enough talent within our team that we can push each other.”