Illini hope for strong start to the outdoor season

By Jacob Diaz

@IlliniWTrack will start the outdoor season this weekend against tough group of opponents.

The Fighting Illini hope to put their best foot forward at this weekend’s Baldy Castillo Invite, the first event of the outdoor season.

After finishing last in the Big Ten at the Big Ten Indoor Championships three weeks ago, Coach Ron Garner and the team hope to take a step in the right direction in Tempe. They will face off against ten teams, including hosts Arizona State and Big Ten rivals Iowa.

The three Illini who competed at the NCAA Indoor Championships last weekend will be rejoined by all of their teammates for this competition. Noticeably absent from the roster will be sophomore Pedrya Seymour, who will be showcasing her talents on the international stage at the IAAF World Indoor Championships. Seymour will be running the 60-meter hurdles for her home country, th Bahamas.

Junior Kandie Bloch-Jones will hope to put a few disappointing results behind her and take home one of the top spots in the high jump. She has succeeded here in the past, and just last year finished top five in both the high and the long jump.

Junior Nicole Choquette will also be looking to build on her performance at this event last year, when she finished second the in the 800 meter. Choquette is one of the four runners who placed at the Big Ten outdoor championships last year in the 4×400 meter relay, and retuning on that team along with Choquette are sophomores Seymour and Miranda Marry.

Even without Seymour, the Illini hurdlers are hoping to make an impact this weekend. Junior Kortni Smyers-Jones and freshman Jayla Stewart along with Seymour made a trio of hurdlers who often qualified for finals in the 60-meter hurdles in the indoor season. Smyers-Jones and Stewart will run the 100-meter hurdles this weekend.

The Illini pole vault team will be one group to watch this outdoor season. Senior Jennifer DeBellis is the more experienced of the duo, and she sits second all-time in Illini history behind five-time champion Stephanie Richartz. The other half of the duo, sophomore Sara McKeeman has set a new personal best in three straight events. Last time out at the Big Ten Championships, McKeeman posted a mark of 4.01 meters, not far from DeBellis’ best mark of 4.14 meters.

[email protected]