Masheto, Zollner fall short at NCAA Outdoor Championships

By Daniel Johnson

As the sole male representative left from Illinois on the penultimate day of the NCAA Championships, Gakologelwang Masheto was unable to extend his All-American season. Masheto came up short in the semifinals for the 400-meter dash in his bid to reach Saturday’s championship final.

After taking third in the first heat in the preliminary round, Masheto’s fate was sealed in the semifinals, with only the best three times from each heat advancing, along with the two other best times from all heats. Approximately two seconds separated his time of 47.13 seconds from the pace-setter, Baylor’s LeJerald Better, 45.12.

The performance may have surprised Masheto more than anyone else, after his career-best run in the same event last year of 45.51.

But, given the fact that he has been dealing with an injury-shorted season due to a stress fracture in his foot, his season has been one of tempered expectations.

“(Masheto) just didn’t seem in his rhythm today,” head coach Wayne Angel said in press release. “He didn’t get out the first 100 meters and was never really in the race. Having a month off from competition is not easy, and the fact that he got as far as he did is admirable. Now he just needs to keep training and focus on the Games.”

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“The Games,” are in reference to Masheto’s future as an Olympian representing his home country of Botswana.

Illinois’ Andrew Zollner had similar, unfortunate results as the junior took 16th in the pole vault, taking his final jump Thursday. After clearing his second height 16 feet, eight and three-quarter inches, Zollner was unable to go any further.

“Zollner’s a warrior,” Angel said. “I’m proud of him for making his second straight trip to nationals and being a strong competitor. He always represents the University of Illinois well and it was too bad he couldn’t sneak into the final.”