Seniors propel Illinois men’s track to third-place finish

By Will Small

The Illinois men’s track and field team put together solid performances to finish third out of 17 teams over the weekend at the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational in Lincoln, Nebraska. After most of the team spent the previous weekend training and resting, the Illini were refreshed, and their scores proved it against a top-tier field that included Nebraska and USC.

Illinois head coach Mike Turk was happy with the way his team competed over the weekend. But for Turk, what impressed him the most was his seniors.

“We have some seniors that are really starting to emerge right now,” Turk said. “They’re just going to a completely different level.”

One of the seniors who Turk praised after the meet was Davis Fraker, who beat his previous school record in the weight throw with distance of 21.8 meters. In high school, Fraker was a national champion and Turk believes that he is making strides to do the same in the collegiate ranks.

“Davis still has a lot left in him for this year, he’s been really consistent,” Turk said. “This weekend, he had five throws over his personal best, so the consistency is there.”

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DJ Zahn was another Illini senior who had a good weekend. Zahn finished third in the 200 meters with a time of 20.96 seconds, which puts him in second place on the Illinois all-time event list. Even though Zahn was not seeded into the fastest heat and didn’t compete against the top two-runners in the event, he still placed third overall, which garnered respect from his coaches.

The growth Turk sees in his seniors, especially Fraker and Zahn can be attributed to many people.

“To see what these guys have developed into, it’s a credit to our coaches and our program to see that process,” Turk said.

Another strong event for the Illini was the 60-meter hurdles. David Kendziera finished third with a time of 7.93 and Cam Viney finished fourth with a time of 7.97. The hurdles were one of the events that Turk was looking forward to seeing where his team stacked up against Nebraska.

Going up against tough teams from the Big Ten before the conference meet gives everyone a chance to size up the competition. This is especially true between Illinois and Nebraska, who have a mutual respect for one another.

“Nebraska is really good,” Turk said. “They look at us, and they’re concerned with some of the diversity that we have on our team, and we look at them, and we’re concerned with the depth of their team in certain events.”

The Illini will have a quick turnaround as they gear up to compete in the Iowa State Classic in Ames, Iowa, this weekend.

Will can be reached at [email protected].