Men’s track attempts to iron out weaknesses

Freshman Shawn Ledbetter attempts a pole vault at the 2009 Carle/Health Alliance Invite at the Armory on Jan. 24, 2009. Erica Magda

Freshman Shawn Ledbetter attempts a pole vault at the 2009 Carle/Health Alliance Invite at the Armory on Jan. 24, 2009. Erica Magda

By Kevin Kaplan

Illinois men’s track and field head coach Wayne Angel has already made numerous adjustments for this weekend, and each is geared toward giving his team the mental edge it will need in late February for the Indoor Big Ten Championships.

In his most significant move, Angel won’t have half of his original team competing this weekend. Illini athletes were scheduled to split between the New Balance Invitational in New York City and Notre Dame’s Meyo Invitational in South Bend, Ind., but Illinois will only be traveling to New York.

“To make a long story short, they’re not ready to compete at that level,” Angel said of those originally scheduled to go to the Meyo Invitational. “When they are, then we’ll give them that opportunity.”

According to Angel, there will now be greater effort on both the part of those not competing this weekend and the staff to iron out some weaknesses. Those with the weekend off will have an opportunity to impress next week at the Cyclone Classic in Ames, Iowa.

Angel is focusing on mentally preparing the New York team for the Big Ten Championships, running almost all of the Illini in two to three events against top-tier competition. The meet will feature more than 100 schools, highlighted by five top-10 teams, including No. 1 Arkansas.

“We’re going to run them in more events than we usually have because that’s what we’re going to do at (the Indoor Championships),” Angel said. “It’s not necessarily endurance; it’s more mental than anything. They’ve got to be strong without a doubt, and they are, but they have to know that they can do this.”

RACE TO WATCH: 400 meters. Gakologelwang Masheto will try to break the NCAA record that he set in New York last year. “I’m feeling good, and looking forward to this New Balance Invitational. New York is one of my favorite meets,” Masheto said.