Men’s track prepared to compete, win more events at Drake Relays

With a record 135 event titles, the Illinois men’s track and field team has a rich history at the Drake Relays.

The Illini will compete in the 102nd Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, this weekend to add more event victories.

“I think we’re ready to go with some people who can win some titles,” Illinois interim head coach Mike Turk said. “We’ve won more titles at the Drake Relays than any school in history and we certainly want to come home with a champion every year.”

Illinois had a strong showing last year with two event titles. Andrew Riley took first in the 110-meter hurdles and Colin Mickow won the 10,000 meters.

“We really got on a roll at Drake last year, we had really a great meet,” Turk said.

The Illini look to build from last year’s success this weekend in their last meet before the outdoor Big Ten Championships.

Illinois has won 64 individual event titles and 71 relay titles in its history at Drake.

Last year the 4×400 meter relay team garnered a season-best on Drake’s track. Its success last year eases nerves for competition this year.

“We’re familiar with the track,” senior Shane Daniel said. “I think it’ll be beneficial because we’ll probably be pretty confident when we’re there, even though we haven’t ran fast this year yet.”

The 4×400 has been plagued by injuries and rather unfavorable weather this season.

“We were really building momentum a couple weeks ago when we came off the Missouri meet, but the last couple meets we’ve been battling the elements,” Daniel said. “I think everyone is coming around right when we need to.”

One of Illinois’ strongest events this weekend will be the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Kyle Engnell, Chris DeSilva and Jeremy Stevens have all garnered a victory in the steeplechase this season.

“After coming off a good race at Mt. SAC I gained some confidence from that,” Engnell said.

“So I definitely want to run towards the front of the group and compete for the win. That would just be awesome to do well here at Drake Relays,” he added.

Engnell ran the steeplechase his freshman year alone and last year with DeSilva. However, DeSilva ended up dropping out of the race early. Engnell is excited to race here this time with two teammates.

“Having two solid teammates by me that I know are in shape and ready to go out gives me so much more confidence,” Engnell said.

The Drake Relays has a strong tradition with strong competition; over 1,300 athletes will be in action this week.

“There’s more pageantry at Drake than any other track meet I’ve ever been to,” Daniel said. “There’s great fans, it’s packed, the weather doesn’t always cooperate, but people still always run fast because of the great competition.”

The environment of the Drake Relays could bring nerves, but Engnell said that’s not a bad thing.

“It might add a little bit of pressure; some people might feel that,” Engnell said. “But I guess you need to feel that to experience that before a meet like Big Tens.”

Despite any pressure, the strong competition and rich environment should promote some strong performances and personal bests this weekend, Turk said.

“That’s one of the things I’m kind of excited about right now. If the weather’s good they’ll have great crowd they’ll fill it,” he said. “And that’ll really help motivate the guys and get them inspired to put forth their best effort I’m sure.”