Richartz, Choquette lead Illini women’s track in scoring

By Alex Wallner

Despite the 10th place finish at the Big Ten Indoor Championships in Geneva, Ohio, over the weekend, the Illinois women’s track and field team finished with 10 individuals in the top 20. Six athletes earning top-10 honors and two came away with wins.

One of those top-10 performances came from senior Alyssa Schneider, who earned third place in the 5,000 meter.

Schneider’s time did not qualify her for the NCAA Indoor Championships in two weeks, but she was impressed with her indoor season.

“As a team I think we made a lot of progress this indoor season,” Schneider said. “A lot of people came away with personal bests and new additions to our school’s record list. I am happy with my (individual) season — coming away from it with personal bests in the mile and 5K and putting in good work that will carry over into outdoor season.”

Another bright spot from the weekend came from sophomore Nicole Choquette, who ran a time of one minute, 29 seconds in the 600 meter. It also pushed her up to third on Illinois’ all-time rank in the event.

Choquette moved past Ryisha Boyd and now trails only Samantha Murphy and Carlene Robinson, who rank first and second, respectively, on the 600 meter all-time list.

The strong performance is one that Choquette didn’t expect coming into the season and is one that helps her going into the outdoor season as well.

“It just shows that hard work can pay off,” Choquette said. “I’m really excited to start outdoor and run with my middle distance teammates.”

The other individual championship for the Illini was senior Stephanie Richartz, who came away with another win in the pole vault with a mark of 4.39 meters. Richartz won her second Big Ten Indoor championship in the pole vault, her first since 2013 an ankle injury sidelined her last indoor season.

Richartz’s win came with her not only breaking her own school record again, but breaking the Big Ten Indoor record as well — the previous record was set by Alicia Rue of Minnesota in 2010 with a final mark of 4.38 meters.

“Breaking the Big Ten record has been a goal of mine for the last couple of years,” Richartz said. “I got really close to breaking the record during the outdoor season my sophomore year, so that was something I was eyeing going into the meet.”

Richartz’s record-breaking feat was marked one-tenth of a meter farther and was a two-point edge over Indiana’s Sophie Gutermuth and Sydney Clute, who earned second and third respectively.

Junior Jennifer DeBellis finished fourth with a mark of 4.09 meters.

Richartz’s journey is not done yet. She will compete at the NCAA Indoor Championships held in Fayetteville, Ark., in two weeks.

“NCAAs is going to be a really exciting meet,” Richartz said. “There’s a lot of high-level athletes that will be there and I’m hoping to place in the top three or five, but we’ll see how it pans out.”

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