Illini continue championship quest



By Meghan Montemurro

Three Illini have survived their respective events and will have the opportunity to compete another day in their quest for national titles and All-American honors at the NCAA Outdoor Championships at Drake Stadium.

Illinois men’s track and field junior Gakologelwang Masheto advanced to the semifinals in the 400 meter dash after placing third in his heat and 14th overall in a time of 46.70 seconds.

“I’m pleased to see Masheto continue to improve as he goes,” head coach Wayne Angel said in a press release. “Had it not been for the wind he could have won his heat.”

The semifinals begin Friday evening. He needs a top three finish in his heat or one of the next two fastest times to advance to Saturday’s final.

Junior pole vaulter Andrew Zollner came up just short in his own bid to qualify for Saturday’s final. After clearing the first two heights, Zollner was unable to clear the third height of 17 feet, 2 3/4 inches, finishing tied for 16th.

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On the women’s side, sophomore Angela Bizzarri and senior LaNeisha Waller advanced in their events. Bizzarri will compete in Friday’s 5,000 meter final after automatically qualifying with her ninth place finish in her heat with a time of 16 minutes, 48.67 seconds in the semifinals Wednesday.

“After watching the first heat which went out really slow, we knew that (Bizzarri) only really needed to be in the top 10 to advance to finals,” distance coach Jeremy Rasmussen said in a press release. “She went out strong and was in the fifth or sixth position the entire race … I think she had to restrain herself from moving up more in the pack toward the end of the race, but she did a great job.”

Waller advanced to Friday’s 100-meter hurdles semifinal after automatically qualifying with her third place finish in her heat in the preliminaries Thursday. The senior finished the event in 13.24 seconds. The top 3 from each semifinal and the next two best times advance to Saturday’s final.

Freshmen Danelle Woods and Chantelle Groenewoud came up short in the 3,000 meter steeplechase semifinals. Woods finished 15th in 10:26:91 while Groenewoud came in 22nd with a time of 10:48.38.

“Danelle is a little disappointed she didn’t make the final, but she had a great year,” Rasmussen said. “This is the longest season she’s ever had from cross country to now and there is a lot both her and Chantelle can take from being a nationals. Next year when they get back here they’ll have the experience and be a little more confident and calm. It’s a great accomplishment for two freshmen to make nationals.”

Senior Briana Cunningham closed out her career with a 22nd place finish in 59.95 seconds in the preliminaries of the 400-meter hurdles Wednesday.