Men’s track to face stiff competition at Tyson Invitational

The preparation stage is over for Illinois men’s track and field.

This weekend, the Illini will travel to Fayetteville, Ark., to compete in the Tyson Invitational held at Arkansas’s Randall Tyson track. The meet will provide Illinois with its biggest challenge of the season.

“We’ve got to go in there with confidence and show what we can do,” head coach Mike Turk said. “We’re going to face the best competition we’re going to see up until the Big Ten meet, national-level competition there in every event, everybody on our squad is going to get tested at an appropriate level for them and their development.”

The meet begins Friday afternoon and continues through Saturday. On Saturday evening, the 2012 USA Track & Field Classic will be held, featuring some of the nation’s best professional and collegiate athletes. The events will be broadcast on ESPN2 on Sunday; thus, the squad will try to keep their focus in the midst of national attention.

“They know what’s at stake, I don’t have to build it up for them,” Turk said. “We try to take an approach that every competition is important, every time to you step on the track it’s important.”

As a sprint-heavy squad, the dash events will be crucial in the Illini’s success. Senior Andrew Riley will lead the way for the Illini, but he’s going to have beat out other elite competition.

“It should be real interesting to see Andrew Riley, he’s going to run against a really good hurdle field including Barrett Nugent from LSU who beat him outdoors and was runner-up to him twice,” Turk said.

The 200-meter dash has been a strong point for the Illini all season, and the sprinters are looking to put up their fastest times of the year at this meet.

“Every event is loaded, but I think we’ve got a couple of guys who can make breakthrough performances,” Turk said. “Brandon Stryganek in the 200 is something I’m going to be anxious to see, along with Stanley Azie.”

Owning the sixth highest pole vault mark in the country going into the weekend, sophomore pole-vaulter Cody Klein is poised to continue his success and help move the Orange and Blue up the leaderboard.

“It’s always a good meet, there’s a lot of good teams there, what I’m going to do is take it one bar at a time and vault high,” Klein said.

The meet should give the Illini a benchmark on the progress they’ve made this season. Next weekend they travel to Lincoln, Neb., for the Big Ten Championships, the pinnacle of their season.

“We just want see that progression going in to Big Tens, we want to perform very well then go in to Big Tens and perform better than we already have,” Klein said.