14 Illini Participate in NCAA West Track & Field Regional


Photo courtesy of Illinois Athletics

Junior runner Olivia Howell runs during the Illini Invite meet on April 23. Howell is one of 14 track and field athletes that will be competing in NCAA West Track & Field Regional this weekend.

By Ben Fader, Staff Writer

The NCAA West Preliminary Round will take place at John McDonnell Field in Fayetteville, Ark., this weekend.

14 Illini qualified for the regional meet during the conference tournament, with nine women competing on Thursday and Saturday and five men competing on Wednesday and Friday.

The 14 Illini were in the top 48 for their individual events, a list that will narrow down to the top 12 for athletes hoping to advance to the NCAA Tournament.

Junior Olivia Howell highlights the list of women competing this weekend for the Illini as the Big Ten champion advances past the conference tournament for their fourth consecutive season.

Freshman Halle Hill and senior Emma Milburn will join Howell in the 1500m but have work to do for the final cut that Howell is expected to make.

Also competing for the women is the 4x400m relay team consisting of freshman Logan Neely, juniors Jessica McDowell, Danni Stoughton and Howell.

Similar to Howell, McDowell will compete in two events as she also qualified for the women’s 400m race.

Rounding out the Illini women are freshman Tori Thomas in the pole vault, senior Rebecca Craddock in the 5000m and graduate student Kristin Higgins in the high jump.

For the men, junior Tyler Sudduth and graduate student Jon Davis joined Howell as the only Illini to advance past the conference meet in both seasons this year.

Sudduth will look to qualify for the NCAA Tournament this weekend in the men’s shot put to defend his second-team All-American title from the indoor season.

Davis is looking to do the same and will attempt to replicate his top five finish nationally during the indoor season and is a reigning first-team All-American.

Freshman DeVontae Ford and junior Robert Williams both qualified for the 400m hurdles, while senior Bret Dannis will compete in the 100m hurdles.

Ranked teams represented by athletes at the prelims include No. 1 Texas, No. 6 Texas Tech, No. 8 Baylor, No. 9 BYU, No. 10 Oklahoma, No. 13 Texas A&M, No. 18 USC, No. 22 Arizona State, No. 23 Houston and No. 25 TCU.

Howell, Sudduth and Davis experienced this more intense competition just over two months ago, but especially for freshmen, it will be challenging to adjust to the overall quality of competition during regionals.

The NCAA track and field website will provide streams for the West regional meet this weekend, starting at noon on Thursday and 1 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Following the competition, any Illini who qualify will participate in the NCAA Championships on June 8–11 in Eugene, Ore.


[email protected]