Two Illini punch their ticket to the NCAA Championships after Illinois track & field competes at regional meet


James Hoeck

Distance Runner Halle Hill pushes forward to maintain position at the front of the race during the track Illini Classic on April 9. Hill was able to participate in the NCAA postseason regional as a freshman within the 1500m but was unable to place for finals.

By Ben Fader, Staff Writer

On Wednesday, the Illini men kicked off the NCAA Regional meet in Fayetteville, Ark., with two runners advancing to the West prelims finals.

Senior Bret Dannis was the first competitor for the Illini, where he recorded a personal best in the 110m hurdles. His 13.68 time placed him eighth in the race and advanced him to the hurdle finals on Friday with an opportunity to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

Graduate student Jon Davis also had that opportunity, as the distance runner cruised to first in his heat with a time of 3:45 in the 1500m.

Junior Tyler Sudduth finished 18th in the shot put with a throw of 18.95m, which did not qualify him for the finals in the event.

The final two Illini ran the 400m hurdles, but neither freshman DeVontae Ford nor junior Robert Williams advanced, coming in 46th and 41st, respectively.

The women started action on day two, starting with the 1500m. Senior Emma Milburn and freshman Halle Hill each competed in the event but did not qualify for the finals.

“I honestly didn’t have that great of a race, but it was awesome just being in the environment with so many great athletes and surrounding myself with their talent,” Hill said.

Hill got the opportunity to compete in a postseason regional meet as a freshman, which she enjoyed very much.

“I was at home, I didn’t even think I had qualified,” Hill said. “My coaches called me on the phone, and it was so exciting hearing that I made it.”

Although her finish in the 1500m did not qualify for the finals, the experience was positive for the freshman.

“Honestly, it was so new. I’ve been in competitive meets before, but this was next level over everything I’ve done before and will help me build for next year,” Hill said.

Junior Olivia Howell finished third overall with a time of 4:17 and comfortably solidified her spot in the finals on Saturday.

Freshman Tori Thomas competed next for the Illini, as the pole vaulter recorded a 3.96m vault, which was tied for 28th place, but was not enough to advance.

On Thursday, the final female athlete competing for the Illini was long sprinter junior Jessica McDowell.

Placing 21st overall, McDowell advanced in the 400m with a time of 53.37 and joined Howell in a finals event on Saturday.

On Friday, Davis achieved his weekend goals and punched his ticket to another NCAA Championship meet with a time of 3:42 and placing ninth overall in the Regional.

Dannis was unable to qualify for the NCAA, but he turned in another personal best and finished 17th overall in the hurdles.

Higgins just missed on the opportunity to advance but set a personal best jump with 1.76m in her final event of the season.

McDowell and senior Rebecca Craddock both ran their hardest in the 400m and 5000m but were unable to qualify as well.

Howell advanced to the NCAA meet, placing third in the 1500m with a time of 4:17, just 1.34 seconds behind the first-place finisher.

Regionals wrapped up with the 4x400m relay, where the Illini placed 15th out of 16 teams, finishing in 3:37.

Howell and Davis will participate in the NCAA Championships on June 8–11, where they will travel to Eugene, Ore., for the Championship meet.



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