Illini women's track and field leans on individuals for success

By Zoe Kaler

The Illinois women’s cross country team won three meets during the season: the Illinois State Invite, the Bradley Invite and the Illini Open.

Senior Alyssa Schneider was a key performer this season. She claimed individual victories at two of the team’s five regular season meets: the Illinois Challenge and the Illinois State Invite.

Freshman Hanna Winter also contributed to team success. She was the first Illini to cross the finish line at the Big Ten Championship. Winter ran a 21 minutes 8 seconds and finished 38th out of the 123 women.

“Throughout the course of the cross country season, I felt that our training was consistent and that we were putting ourselves in the position to be successful in the indoor and outdoor track seasons,” head coach Scott Jones said.

Jones said he thinks Schneider is an example of that success because of the personal-bests she has set.

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Moving into the indoor track and field season, Illinois started off on the right foot with five wins at the EIU Early Bird Classic. Freshman Jasmine Berry won the 400 meter dash in 58.50, junior Britten Petrey won the mile in 5:02.40, senior Breanna Coleman to the 60 meter hurdles in 08.54, sophomore Kandie Bloch-Jones cleared the high jump at 1.71 meters and senior Stephanie Richartz won pole vault clearing 3.90.

Illinois continued to win multiple event titles at the Iowa “Border Battles” and again at the Illini Classic.

Illinois won the Illini Classic, and Richartz and Coleman each left with a third consecutive win. Richartz cleared 4.21 meters in pole vault, and Coleman ran the  60 meter hurdles in 8.39.

Richartz’s success continued through the season winning six of the seven regular season meets as well as the Big Ten Indoor Championship. Clearing a personal best of 4.38 meters, her second time winning this meet.

Freshman Nicole Choquette also brought home a Big Ten Indoor Championship for the Illini, running a 1:29 in the 600 meters.

At the NCAA Indoor Championships, Richartz tied for third and cleared 4.45 meters. She achieved first-team All-America honors for the second time in her career and the highest finish by an Illini pole vaulter in NCAA Indoor Championships history.

Continuing into the outdoor season, Illinois consistently saw strong performances from many athletes especially Bloch-Jones and Richartz.

Richartz brought home four individual victories in the outdoor season, consecutively winning the last-four regular season meets.

Bloch-Jones also claimed four wins out of the eight regular season meets, clearing a personal-best in high jump of 1.84 meters at Purdue’s Rankin/Poehlein Invitational.

Purdue’s Rankin/Poehlein Invitational was an exceptional meet for the Illini. They brought home seven event titles, 23 top-10 places and set numerous personal-bests.

In addition to Bloch-Jones and Richartz, Choquette took first in the 800 meters at 2:06.70, Schneider won the 1,500 with a time of 4:20.81, sophomore Audrey Blazek ran a 17:47 to win the 5,000, Petrey won the steeplechase at 10:35 and senior Mariah Smith claimed a victory in discus throwing 50.40 meters.

Next the Illini will travel to East Lansing, Michigan May 15-17 for the Big Ten Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

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