Illinois jumpers put on strong performance at Music City Challenge


Daily Illini File Photo

Illinois’ Janile Rogers attempts the long jump in the Orange & Blue Meet at the Armory on Saturday Feb. 20, 2016.

By Chris Kennedy , Staff writer

The Illinois women’s track team traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, to compete in the Music City Challenge last weekend.

Junior Janile Rogers and sophomore Briana Driver set personal-bests in the long jump on Saturday, and senior Kandie Bloch-Jones finished third in the high jump to score the Illini’s top finish in Nashville.

“It’s the best long jump meet we’ve had in three years,” Head Coach Ron Garner said. “Today will be a meet that they will be able to build off of. I’m very proud of the way they jumped against high level competition.”

Driver and Rogers finished 10th and 11th, respectively, good for first and second place in their flight of the long jump.

Driver broke her personal record by more than eight inches with a mark of 19 feet and 6.25 inches. It was her best performance since a jump of 17 feet and 11 inches at Iowa’s Border Battle on Jan. 6 and 7.

Rogers was one of the team’s top finishers in Kentucky at the McCravy Invite and finished 16th last weekend at Notre Dame with a jump of 18 feet 6.5 inches. She jumped nearly a foot longer this time, making 19 feet and 4.25 inches for a new personal-best.

Driver and Rogers faced stiff competition in the event, going against two top-five nationally-ranked jumpers. Georgia’s Kate Hall and Kendell Williams placed first and second overall, respectively.

On the high jump mat, Bloch-Jones had another strong performance after missing last week’s Meyo Invitational. Her tie for third place marks the first competition she has not won this season. Garner said that Bloch-Jones wasn’t feeling well during Friday’s competition.

“It was a struggle physically,” Garner said. “I appreciate her being a warrior and trying to get something out of it.”

Bloch-Jones missed clearing 1.82 meters on her last jump. Georgia’s Tatiana Gusin, All-American and current national No. 1 in high jump, won the event with a mark of 1.79 meters. Minnesota’s Heta Tuuri, a national qualifier last year, finished second and Georgia’s Mary Terry tied with Bloch-Jones for third.

Freshman sprinter Kayla Hylton also continued a run of personal-best marks in Nashville. She set new personal records in both the 200-meter dash and the 60-meter dash, in what Garner called a “breakthrough” performance.

Hylton ran 24.66 seconds in the 200-meter to top her previous best from the McCravy Invite and finish 13th. She ran 7.62 seconds in the 60-meter to finish 13th in the preliminaries and beat a mark set as a high school senior at last year’s Illinois Top Times Indoor Championship. Hylton was just eight-tenths of a second out of a spot in the finals in a competitive field. Central Florida’s J’Nea Bellamy won the event in 7.34 seconds.

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