Masheto, Zollner to compete at Nationals



By Susan Kantor

Although there will be only two athletes to represent the University, Illinois’ Andrew Zollner and Gakologelwang Masheto will compete from June 11-14 in the NCAA Track and Field Championships.

Zollner and Masheto each earned automatic berths in their events, the pole vault and 400-meter dash, respectively, at the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships.

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It marks the second-straight year that both athletes will be attending Nationals.

“We’re obviously extremely excited for both of them,” head coach Wayne Angel said Monday. “They’re both in pretty good physical condition right now to do well. I just expect them to do the best that they can physically do right now. You have to be tactically and physically prepared for Nationals, and they both have been there.”

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    While Masheto’s qualification came as little surprise to Angel, even given injuries throughout the season, Zollner’s route to Nationals was a bit more interesting to the coach.

    The pole vaulter was forced into what Angel described as an “unnecessary” jump-off, at the Regional final. Zollner beat Purdue’s Ben Pax in the extra jump with a height of 16’11” to qualify for Nationals.

    “I thought that he had already made the top-four jumpers; it seemed like the judges may have misread some of his jumps, which might have forced the jump-off,” Angel said. “He’s had some injuries throughout the season, too, but he has toughed it out. I just hope that he’s able to stay healthy throughout the week.”

    Angel and two other coaches will accompany the two athletes to Des Moines, Iowa, for the competition, giving a player-to-coach ratio that Angel is relishing.

    “You can obviously put in a lot more time with your athletes and spend time with them you otherwise wouldn’t get to,” he said. “You’re helping them focus more and you’re able to give them individual attention.

    “But that being said, I expect them to do their best, and let the chips fall where they may.”