Bizzarri comes up short at Olympic Trials

By Daniel Johnson

In what former head coach Gary Winckler could only describe as “disappointing,” Illinois sophomore Angela Bizzarri finished 15th in the 5000-meter run final at the U.S. Olympic Trials.

“It’s a hard pill to swallow for her, I’m sure,” Winckler said Sunday. “She was in a very, very fast event, and I’m very impressed with the American runners that will be going.”

Bizzarri’s time of 16 minutes, 3.99 seconds put her ahead of three runners in the field but did not fulfill assistant coach Jeremy Rasmussen’s goal of a third straight personal-best time for her.

“It just shows you how highly competitive the Olympics are,” Winckler said. “Most of those that are going to be going (to Beijing) are post-collegiate athletes. It’s just amazing to me, personally, that we have three athletes here.”

The other two Illini that made the trip to Eugene, Ore., were Aja Evans, who did not make it past the qualifying rounds in the shot put, and LaNeisha Waller. Waller, at time of press, had made it to the semifinals in the 100-meter hurdles, after timing in at 13.11 seconds.

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“You look at someone like LaNeisha and you see how far she has come, it’s a really rewarding thing to be a part of,” Winckler said. “We weren’t sure if she would make it through as far as she had, but if she can make it into the finals, that would be something really special for us.”

Although it may be unlikely that a track and field athlete will make the U.S. Olympic team, Winckler said he is, if nothing else, proud of the University athletes in all sports. The Trials represent the final official event in which Winckler will work with Illini athletes.

“It’s a nice way to end, it just shows how special some of the athletes are from Illinois. I said it earlier, but Olympic sports are predominately post-collegiate athletes and getting as many athletes in all the sports that Illinois did is amazing.”