Seniors take last lap around Armory track

Patrick Traylor The Daily Illini Angela Bizzari leads her heat, followed by fellow Illini Theresa Brokaw, in the preliminary one mile run competition during the Big Ten Womens Indoor Track and Field Championships at the U of I Armory on Saturday, February 24, 2007. Bizzari finished in third place overall in the event with an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 4:46.02.

Patrick Traylor The Daily Illini Angela Bizzari leads her heat, followed by fellow Illini Theresa Brokaw, in the preliminary one mile run competition during the Big Ten Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships at the U of I Armory on Saturday, February 24, 2007. Bizzari finished in third place overall in the event with an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 4:46.02.

By Kevin Kaplan

For the Illinois men’s and women’s track and field teams, Saturday will be their first and last indoor home meet of the season. And for the seniors, it will be their last time competing at the Armory.

“It will be kind of bittersweet,” Illini men’s head coach Wayne Angel said.

“I think (the seniors) have done a great job since they’ve been here and I think in the end they’re going to do great indoors as well as outdoors when it’s all said and done.”

With Saturday’s Carle/Health Alliance Invitational being only the second meet of the season for the women and the fourth for the men, it will be hard for many of the Illini to think about it as anything other than just another home meet.

“It’s a long season; it’s just the beginning of the year so it’s probably going to be difficult for (the team) to think about it with all that we have coming up,” Illinois women’s head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said.

While it may still be too early for the seniors to start getting nostalgic, home meets are particularly exciting this season.

“It’s going to be my last chance to impress the indoor crowd here at Illinois; we’ll have one more chance outdoor but after that it’s about it,” senior Andrew Zollner said. “There’s a pretty strong sense of needing to accomplish something, to give everyone a good show.”

One senior who will not be able to compete Saturday is Yawusa Kinda, who injured his hamstring last week and will miss the remainder of the indoor season.

Kinda’s injury hurts the Illini men’s depth, especially in the 400 meter and 4×400 meter relay. The Illini men will need strong performances in each of those events against No. 20 Georgia, who bested the Illini’s 4×400 meter relay squad by .32 seconds at last week’s Kentucky Invitational.

Georgia will be tough competition in those events, especially with Torrin Lawrence competing in each.

Lawrence, who automatically qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships in the 200 meter last week, will provide an excellent matchup for Illini 400 meter star Gakologelwang Masheto, who provisionally qualified for the NCAA Championships last week in the 400 meter.

“That 400 meter race will probably be one of the best 400 meter races in the country,” Angel said.

The field events begin Saturday at 9 a.m., with the preliminaries for the running events scheduled to start at 11 a.m. Following the preliminaries, a ceremony will take place to honor former Illini men’s track and field head coaches, Gary Wieneke and Robert C. Wright.