Postseason begins for Illinois track & field at Big Ten Championships

Junior+runner+Olivia+Howell+takes+the+lead+for+her+event+at+the+Illini+Invite+on+April+23.+Howell+and+other+Illinois+track+and+field+athletes+will+be+heading+to+Minneapolis+for+the+Big+Ten+Outdoor+Championships+from+Friday+to+Saturday.++

Sydney Laput

Junior runner Olivia Howell takes the lead for her event at the Illini Invite on April 23. Howell and other Illinois track and field athletes will be heading to Minneapolis for the Big Ten Outdoor Championships from Friday to Saturday.

By Ben Fader, Staff Writer

After two weeks of practice, the Illini are back in action for the Big Ten Championship meet on Friday in Minneapolis, Minn.

Last time out, the Illini were in Des Moines, Iowa, for the Drake Relays, where they ended a regular season full of improvement and event titles. 

The Illini had eight athletes earn All-Big Ten Honors during the indoor season, a performance that they would like to beat or improve upon this weekend. 

After a 10th-place finish for both the men’s and women’s teams in the winter, the team is hungry to keep progressing. 

Senior Jaden Jackson is one athlete who is excited to showcase his improvement from 2022 in the postseason.

“My personal goal for the meet this weekend is to try and run a regional qualifying time in the 400 hurdles,” Jackson said. “And then just be ready for my team in any other event they need me to be ready for.”

Every point will matter for the Illini, and team players willing to contribute in any event are crucial to success. 

“With all of the improvements that the whole team has been making on the track, we are all very confident that we are going to place higher than we did at the indoor conference meet,” Jackson said.

Despite the desire to finish higher than 10th this season, Jackson emphasizes that nothing will change in terms of preparation.

“The racing strategy doesn’t change really because we are still trying to improve and run faster than we did the weeks prior,” Jackson said.

The Illini will be led by their three All-Americans in the postseason: juniors Olivia Howell and Tyler Sudduth, as well as grad student Jon Davis. 

Howell is a three-time Big Ten champion in the mile and 1500m and has dominated the Big Ten meet three seasons in a row. The team will be relying on more fantastic efforts from Howell if they want to achieve their goals.

Davis joined Howell as a First-Team All-American last season and will also be a key name to look out for. 

Sudduth will have his work cut out for him as the Big Ten sent the most throwers to the NCAA shot put event of any conference during indoors, but he has shown he can handle the competition.

They will need more than three people this weekend, though, and Jackson and the rest of the team is ready to step up for Illinois to improve on the 10th place finish of seasons prior.

The competition kicks off on Friday at noon with the decathlon and women’s hammer throw. The events will continue until 8:15 p.m. on Friday and pick back up with the decathlon and heptathlon event finals. The final day of competition will begin at 11 am with the women’s triple jump finals and end with the 4x4000m relays.

After a busy three days, the meet will determine who made regionals and prove if the program progressed enough this spring.

Next, the Illini, who qualify for regionals, will travel to Fayetteville, Ark., for the NCAA West Preliminaries on May 26-28 for a chance to compete in the NCAA Championships.

 

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