Nwoko runs seventh-fastest 400-meter in Illini history


Junior Chisom Nwoko races for the Illini during their outdoor season. The team will now head indoors and begin to compete at Huff Hall.

By Jared Farmer, Staff Writer

Sophomore Chisom Nwoko clocked a new personal best when she won the women’s 400-meter dash at the Ole Miss Classic this Saturday.

“Chisom Nwoko’s 400 was a huge performance for her, and a big personal best outdoors,” said head coach Mike Turk. “It was a really impressive run for her, and she made it look easy. When you say that a race like that looks easy at this time of year, you like to believe that there’s a lot more there down the road.”

The win caps off a weekend where the Illini women’s track and field team split up to compete in both the Ole Miss Classic and Stanford Invite on Friday.

At Stanford, freshman Rebecca Craddock and senior Nicole Choquette also set personal bests in distance events. Craddock finished the 5,000-meter dash with a time of 16:30.9 in section two of the race, while Choquette clocked in a time of 4:30.27 in the sixth heat of the 1,500-meter dash.

The Illini started the day off with the long jump and pole vault competitions. In the long jump, junior Briana Driver marked 19 feet and 3.25 inches (5.87-meter) and finished second. In the pole vault, junior Sara McKeeman also took second place after clearing 12 feet and 75 inches, while Nwoko cleared 11 feet and 7.75 inches and finished fourth.

“Sara McKeeman in the pole vault continues to be one of our prime performers; she had an outstanding meet,” Turk said. “She would’ve liked to go higher, sure, but I was really pleased with her performance.

In the high jump, freshman Ololade Ayoola finished in a three-way tie for 10th place, with Indiana State’s Janea Bell and Ole Miss’s Ghania Warren, each clearing 1.55-meters.

On the track, the Illini started with the 4×100-meter relay. The unit of Driver, junior Sade Hargrove and freshman Amira Aduma, with senior Janile Rogers as anchor, took second place with a time of 45.41 seconds.

“I think our relay team needs to improve,” Turk said. “We have runners that I believe can compete at a national, even international event, but we’ve got to work on our handoffs and exchanges a great deal. That’ll be a big emphasis for us these next couple of weeks.”

Freshmen Alexis Jones and Maya Seay followed up the 4×100 in the 100-meter hurdles. The two hurdlers dropped their times from their previous race at the NCAA Indoor Championships, finishing in fifth and sixth with times of 14.30 and 14.32 seconds, respectively.

Nwoko then followed up Jones’s and Seay’s performances with her victory in the 400-meter dash. Her new outdoor personal-best time of 53.59 ranks as the seventh-fastest outdoor 400-meter time in Illini history.

“I felt pretty good about my performance today as an opener for the outdoor season,” Nwoko said. “I feel like there are a few things that I could’ve done better, but I have the whole season to get better, so I feel pretty good about it.”

Three Illini finished in the top 10 in the 100-meter dash. Hargrove and Driver also ran the 4×100, finishing with times of 11.97 and 12.08 seconds for third and seventh place finishes, respectively, while junior Emone Davis ran a personal best of 12.03 seconds for a fifth-place finish.

Freshman Mikaela Lucki led the Illini in the 800-meter dash with a sixth-place finish and a time of 2:13.54. The time was just over half a second short of matching her personal-best time of 2:12.99. Fellow freshman Caroline Fix also finished in the top 10, grabbing 10th place after running 2:17.56.

In the 400-meter hurdles, Alexis Jones led the Illini by placing 10th with a time of 1:04.00. Freshman Jade Mayes trailed close behind, running 1:04.14 for a 12th-place finish.

The Illini concluded their competition in the 200-meter dash. Janile Rogers finished first for the Illini with a time of 24.70 en route to a ninth-place finish, while Davis finished 12th with a time of 25.11.

“This was a very good meet for us,” Turk said. “With the team that we have this year being really young, we really had to search for the type of meet that would provide us the right kind of opportunity to run in some good weather against decent competition. I think that worked out for us today, the team came in well-prepared and did their part. Our performances keep improving, and that’s what we’re looking for.”

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