Individual talent overshadows team accomplishments in Illinois track & field’s outdoor season


Photo courtesy of Illinois Athletics

Graduate student Jon Davis runs during his men’s 1500m event for the NCAA Outdoor Championship semifinals on June 8. Davis earns the First-Team All-American during the championship finals and placed sixth with a 3:46:15 for the men’s 1500m.

By Ben Fader, Staff Writer

The 2022 outdoor Track and Field season has come to a close after junior Olivia Howell and graduate student Jon Davis wrapped up competition in the NCAA Championships.

The Illini continued their progression from the indoor season throughout the spring and set many personal, and school records. Personal bests occurred in every meet for the Illini, starting with a bang in the Ole Miss Classic to begin the season.

Senior Bret Dannis was one of 14 personal bests in the meet, and the sprinter knew it was only the beginning of a stellar outdoor season.

“It was great to be back outside, especially in the South,” Dannis said back in March. “There is so much more energy and everyone has more fun when we are outside.”

Redshirt-senior Rebecca Craddock matched Dannis’s energy with a historic performance in the second weekend as the distance runner ran the second fastest 5000m in school history. The blistering time of 16:11 on a warm night in Stanford, California was followed the very next day by the first of five top two finishes for junior Tyler Sudduth.

The former Second-Team All-American shot putter put together another great effort in the outdoor season and the competitiveness of the event, especially in the Big Ten, was all that kept him from pursuing another All-American honor.

Although the Illini were grateful for the contributions from athletes like Sudduth, Dannis, and Craddock, the underclassmen impressed and showed promise for the future of the program.

Freshman Tacoria Humphrey won multiple event titles in the high jump this season and achieved a personal best jump of 1.75m in her premier season. Freshman sprinter Devontae Ford had an excellent first season as well, winning a 400m event title and aided the 4x100m relay team in several first place finishes.

The final impact freshmen of the indoor season were Halle Hill and Tori Thomas, who both qualified for the western regional meet in the 1500m and pole vault respectively. Hill, the talented freshman from Indiana, competed alongside Howell in the Big Ten Championship and West Prelims and gained valuable postseason experience for her next three years. 

The postseason was nothing new for Thomas as the two time All-Metro high school track athlete of the year competed valiantly with her vaults and will look to advance even further next year.

The season had the Illini traveling to many warm locations, including a sunny weekend in Sacramento where the Illini had their best showing of the season. 25 personal bests were recorded by the competing athletes in the Mt. Sac Relays, which is a tremendous accomplishment by itself. 

Junior Aiden Ouimet set a program record with the highest Decathlon point total in Illini history with his 7,348 performance. Although Ouimet’s performance “came out of nowhere,” the junior showed great potential throughout the season and now stands alone in school history.

“I still can’t believe it,” Ouimet said in April.“Weather was nice today and I felt loose and just had fun with it and it showed.”

The two stars in Howell and Davis, each were delayed in their starts to the outdoor season as they recovered from the indoor postseason.

As soon as they rejoined competition, the two resumed their domination into the postseason where they began their quests for another All-American honor. The duo was the only of the Illini to make the All-Big Ten teams after the conference meet and were joined by 10 other events in the regional meet.

The rest of the Illini fell short of advancing past regionals and did not join Howell and Davis at the Hayward Field complex for the final meet of the year. 

“Staying healthy and practicing consistency is what has gotten me to this point,” said Davis before his final meet. “It’s nice to see the hard work pay off and perform for the team.”

Both runners advanced to the final heats where Davis earned another First-Team All-American honor in his final collegiate event and Howell raced her way into a Second-Team All-American finish.

Howell will be the only returning Illini to be an All-American in both seasons this year, but the team has many promising athletes to fill the void which will be left by Davis. Oiumet, Sudduth, Hill, Ford, Thomas and more will look to make the next step to improve and take the program to another level.



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