Illini hope for strong start to the outdoor season

By Jacob Diaz

Tweet: .@IlliniWTrack will start the outdoor season this weekend against tough group of opponents. #Illini

The Fighting Illini women’s track team hopes to put its best foot forward at this weekend’s Baldy Castillo Invite, the first event of its outdoor season.

After finishing last at the Big Ten Indoor Championships three weeks ago, head coach Ron Garner and his team hope to take a step in the right direction in Tempe, Arizona. They will face off against 10 teams, including hosts Arizona State and Big Ten rival Iowa.

The two Illini who competed at last weekend’s NCAA Indoor Championships will be rejoined by all of their teammates except sophomore Pedrya Seymour. Seymour will be showcasing her talents on the international stage at the IAAF World Indoor Championships where she will be running the 60-meter hurdles for her home country, the Bahamas.

Junior Kandie Bloch-Jones hopes 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 in the top five in both the high and long jump competitions.

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    Junior Nicole Choquette will look 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.

    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, came together to make a trio 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 a 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.

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