Three Illini earn All-America honors at NCAA Outdoor Championships

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Photo Courtesy of Fighting Illini Athletics

Sophomore Olivia Howell runs in the women’s 1500 meter at the NCAA West Prelims in late May at College Station, Texas. Three Illini received All-America honors including Howell, at the NCAA Outdoor Championships this past weekend in Eugene, Oregon.

By Andre Thomas, Staff Writer

The Fighting Illini, along with the entire NCAA, had to stop all events and cancel all invitationals because of the global pandemic last season, which meant some athletes were not able to compete last year. With the pandemic coming to end this year and society opening back up, athletes have started to return to their own lifestyles.

Returning from the four-day NCAA Outdoor Championships, Illinois was in high spirits even though a first-place trophy was not returning with them.

Sophomore sensation Olivia Howell became the first Illini from the women’s team to receive All-American Second-Team honors since 2017. Howell advanced to the 1500-meter finals after placing fourth in the semifinals of the event before finishing in 10th in the final. Howell has broken multiple records this season while winning several events throughout the 2020-2021 season.

“I love to compete against other schools —  and even my teammates — because they help me get better just like my coaches,” said Jonathan Wells. “We all spent the summer and first semester preparing for the possibility of society returning to normal, and when it did return normal, we all showed how good were. Everyone broke records this year or beat their personal best.”

Manning Plater broke his own personal record — and the school’s record — for the men’s hammer throw this year. He received a 10th-place finish this weekend as well to end of a spectacular year, even after being named Big Ten Athlete of the Week on multiple occasions.

“I am honestly just happy everyone is performing at a high rate, and I am rooting for everyone to give their all no matter what place you end up in,” Plater said.

Wells finished his season with a 20th-place performance in his last event this year. He has won several events this year while being one of only six athletes to win both the long Jump & high jump at the Big Ten Championships.

Jessica McDowell, Tyler Sudduth, Howell and many more have set the tone for current and future Illinois track and field teams. Even though, a global crisis prevented training and competitions, It didn’t stop Illinois from being the best they could be.

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