Illinois looks to solidify place among top teams at NCAA West Prelims

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Photo Courtesy of Fighting Illini Athletics

Graduate student Jonathan Wells makes a backwards leap over the high jump on Saturday at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships. The Illinois track and field team hopes to keep their pace amongst other schools in preparation for the NCAA West Prelims.

By Andre Thomas, Staff Writer

It is now late May, and the NCAA West Prelims is about to end the last week of the month. Illinois has trained and competed in Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, Ohio, Arkansas, Indiana, Florida, Texas and Minnesota. The Illini also held their own events at home this year, including the Illini Big Ten Multi-Meet, Fighting Illini Big Ten Relays and Big Ten Outdoor Championships.

“We have worked all year for every event this year because we love what we do, and we are overcompetitive,” said graduate student Jonathan Wells. “We have conversations about jitters and nervousness because it’s normal. However, the conversation is about the excitement we have because we like going against others. Well, at least I do.”

Wells has been competing at an extremely high level this year, which means he might just enjoy competition a lot more than you think. The six-time All-American made a statement in the Big Ten Outdoor Championships, winning both the high jump and long jump events in the same weekend, something that has only be done six times. 

On top of that, Wells has won both events in multiple invitationals this year, showing he deserved to be a part of the All-Big Ten First Team. A resume like this shows how much he loves to compete and better himself. Even off the track, Wells is excelling and was named the Scholar Athlete of the Week.

“It’s not about competing, but more so elevating our game and bettering ourselves,” Wells said. “We are ready to give this event our all.”

Two years ago, the NCAA West Prelims was completely different, but there have been some changes to this year’s events, as there is a new location, different athletes and better weather. In 2019, the Illini had three male athletes advance to the quarterfinals in their respective events, while the women were not able to qualify. This year Texas A&M will host the NCAA West Prelims in Edward B. Cushing Stadium for both the men’s and women’s events.

“I am overly excited about the women being able to compete this year, because it wouldn’t be fair for only the men to compete when they both are track athletes,” said assistant coach Jacob Cohen. “We know everybody on this team works hard, and they should be able to show it as well.” 

With the historic season Illinois has had, what lies ahead for the 28 Illinois athletes is uncertain. However, the Illinois women’s team is looking to set the tone since they were not able to compete last year or in 2019. Illinois has four days to show what they have been working for all year, as the event will take place from Wednesday to Saturday in College Station, Texas.

 

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