Illini prevail at ‘intense’ Kentucky Invitational

By Kevin Kaplan

“It was a heck of a meet, but it’s early.”

With those words, Illinois men’s track head coach Wayne Angel both summarized Saturday’s Kentucky Invite and hinted at its significance on the season to come.

In Lexington, Ky., Illinois faced some of the best competition in the country, including five top-25 teams. With the stage set for NCAA Championship-caliber matchups and times, the Illini held their own against the nation’s elite.

The Illini posted provisional qualifiers for the NCAA Indoor Championships in two events and had strong performances across the board, even with a small squad.

“I was pleased with how things went, we had a small contingent but we got a lot of work done so I was pleased with how the week ended,” Angel said.

Senior All-American Gakologelwang Masheto placed second in the 400 meters with a provisional-qualifying time of 47.07 seconds, finishing behind Florida’s Calvin Smith by three-hundredths of a second.

Masheto also anchored Illinois’ provisionally-qualifying 4×400 relay team that included freshman Hendrik Maartens, junior Gary Miller and sophomore Dan Jones. The squad placed fifth with a time of 3:09.97. Florida won the event with a time of 3:09.14.

Miller was also the Illini’s top finisher of the day, winning the 800 meters (1:52.46), a race in which four Illini finished in the top seven.

“It was a great race, the competition. I came out pretty good so I’m happy, I’m satisfied,” Miller said. “It was probably the most intense meet I’ve been to in a long time.”

The other members of the Illini’s 4×400 relay achieved respectable individual results as well. Maartens placed 13th in the 400 meters (48.34) and Jones placed 15th in the 200 meters (21.92).

Other notable performances for the Illini included a 12th-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles by freshman Andrew Riley (8.13) and a fifth-place finish in the pole vault by senior Andrew Zollner (16 feet, 3/4 inches).

While Saturday was one of the toughest meets the Illini will participate in, Angel stressed that it is now only something to build off of for the future.

“With the provisional marks, that’s always a good start, getting the momentum going into next week,” Angel said.

The Illini will stay in Champaign this Saturday for the Carle/Health Alliance Invitational, their only home meet of the indoor season.