Masheto, distance runners lead track and field to improvement



Brad Meyer The Daily Illini Lesiba Masheto sprints ahead after recieving the batton in the mens 4×400 meter relay at the Carle/Health Alliance Invitational held in the armory on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2009.

By Kevin Kaplan

Illinois track and field senior Gakologelwang Masheto went to Lincoln, Neb., for Saturday’s Adidas Classic with the goal of redemption. After spending the past week tuning up his 400-meter run, he got it.

“Coming from last week, I realized that I lost the race in the first 200 meters,” Masheto said. “My plan was to just work on my 200, which I did, and I accomplished what I wanted to do.”

With a time of 47.06 seconds, Masheto finished second to Nebraska’s Lukas Hulett (46.75). Though not placing first, Masheto found much to take with him, as did the rest of the Illinois team in their overall third-place finish.

Masheto ran a NCAA provisional-qualifying time for the second time this season in the 400 meters, improving on his previous season best by .01 seconds. He also got a rematch of sorts against Hulett later in the meet.

In the 4×400 meter relay, both Masheto and Hulett anchored their teams. After receiving the batons at nearly the same time, Masheto was able to edge out Hulett down the stretch. The result was a first-place finish for the Illinois 4×400 meter relay team of freshman Hendrik Maartens, sophomore Dan Jones, junior Gary Miller and Masheto (3:12.03).

Illinois placed first in three other events, each of which was a middle-to-long distance race. Freshman Graham Farnsworth posted two solid performances, winning the 1,000 meters (2:31.19) and placing third in the mile (4:12.58).

Farnsworth credits increasing team chemistry as a major role in the distance team’s consistent improvement throughout the year.

“Distance races are so mentally tough, it’s a thinking race,” Farnsworth said. “If you can have the camaraderie with other guys, I’m out there and I’ve got Garrett Weaver in a race with me, we’re working together. That type of work makes distance races much easier when you can build that, it all just starts to come together.”

Weaver finished the 1,000 meters with a time of 2:31.44, which was just .25 seconds behind Farnsworth.

“It’s all progression and building one meet on top of the next,” Farnsworth said. “We work together, play off each other, and go from there.”

The Illinois team will split up next week, with mostly sprinters attending the New Balance Invitational in New York and mostly distance runners heading to South Bend, Ind., for Notre Dame’s Meyo Invitational.

Illini head coach Wayne Angel believes that both groups will bring positive things from Nebraska to their meets next week.

“Sometimes when you compete in a meet of this caliber, athletes tend to lose their focus and composure if they aren’t mentally tough, but I didn’t see any of that today,” Angel said. “This meet has definitely given us the momentum that we need going in to New York next week. Now we just have to keep building on our successes.”