Illinois track & field return for final home meet of 2021-2022 season


James Hoeck

Senior distance runner Emma Milburn runs alongside freshman distance runner Annalyssa Crain during the Illini Classic meet on April 9. The Illini will be hosting an invitational on Friday and Saturday featuring other teams from Illinois State, SIUE and more.

By Ben Fader, Staff Writer

The Illini are back home this weekend on Friday and Saturday for the Illini Invitational as the regular season continues to wind down quickly.

The meet will take place at Demirjian Park and will be the final meet Illinois hosts until the 2022-2023 indoor season.

The other teams participating in the invitational include Illinois State, SIUE, Southern Illinois, Bradley, UW Milwaukee, University of Illinois at Chicago, Drake, Eastern Illinois, Chicago State, Western Michigan, Valparaiso, IUPUI and Murray State.

The Illini are coming off a successful weekend on the West Coast, boasting 25 personal bests in California.

Racing conditions are going to be the best they have been since last summer, with a high of 81 degrees on Saturday when the bulk of the meet will take place.

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The warmer weather will also make way for a nice senior day for the Illini, as they will recognize the 22 seniors and graduate students on the men’s and women’s teams. The celebration will occur at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday before the final events are run.

Also joining the meet on Saturday will be the Illinois men’s and women’s wheelchair track teams for the first time this outdoor season.

The wheelchair teams will race the 400m, 100m and 1500m races on Saturday afternoon directly before the rest of the competition competes in the same events.

The Illini Invitational begins on Friday at noon with field events. Hammer throw, javelin, men’s pole vault and long jump will be the first events to kick off the meet.

Day two will start with field events again with the discus throw at 10 a.m. Running events will begin at 4 p.m. with the 4x100m relays.

After multiple top ten performances in program history last weekend, Illinois will look to continue building momentum for the Big Ten Championships.

One of the top performances from last weekend’s spectacular showing was recorded by senior Emma Milburn, who is now sixth in program history in the 3000m steeplechase after her first time competing in the event.

“I’ve been preparing for steeple since my freshman year in college, but little things kept getting in the way,” Milburn said. “I felt ready to go last weekend.”

Milburn would like to race the steeple again in the Big Ten Championships and has plenty of time to prepare for an even better time.

“It was really exciting crossing the line the first time, especially since I didn’t know what to expect the pace to be like,” Milburn said. “I feel like I learned a good pace during the race, and I have more to give next time.”

With two more meets left in the regular season, the volume in practice is decreasing, but Milburn knows the team is locked in.

“I think we are in a really good place,” Milburn said. “The home meet this weekend is another good opportunity to run fast together as a team.”

After this weekend, the Illini have one final tune-up before the postseason with the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, which will span from April 27-29.



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