Bright spots in 2022-23 season indicate upward trend for Illinois track & field

By Theo Gary, Staff Writer

The 2022-23 Illinois track field season begins, ends and all throughout the middle was about Olivia Howell. The senior from Solon, Ohio had a fantastic season. At the NCAA indoor championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Howell ran the mile in 4:34:00, a facility record and good enough to finish first in the indoor mile-run, making her an NCAA champion.

Along with her national championship came a Big Ten crown. At the Big Ten indoor championships held in February, Howell won her third straight Big Ten indoor mile and her fifth Big Ten championship. There, Howell’s blistering mile propelled Illinois’ women’s track and field into 10th, three spots out of last. 

Despite a win in the men’s 4x400m relay at the same event, the Illinois men finished 11th, zero spots out of last. Highlighting a persistent theme throughout the track and field season, one which appeared on both the men’s and women’s sides — great individuals elevating generally middle-of-the-pack teams.   

Senior Tyler Sudduth won honors as an All-American in the shot put, placing eighth in the weight throw at the same NCAA indoor championships the crowned Howell.

At the Fighting Illini Challenge in April, sophomore Tacoria Humphrey, already the owner of the Illinois women’s long jump record, beat her own distance. The sophomore jumped 6.55 meters, at the time good for fourth in the country. At the same meet, Howell nearly set a new school record in the 800-meter dash, running it in 2:02.72. 

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Illinois had a much stronger season in the outdoor events. At the Big Ten meet in May, the Illinois women finished an overall eighth, their best finish in 10 years, while the men finished ninth. At the event, the junior Aiden Ouimet overtook his own school record in the decathlon, placing third with 7,679 points. Humphrey finished second in the long jump. 

Sophomore Tori Thomas made history, or at least recent history, at the NCAA west preliminaries in May. For the first time in eight years, an Illinois Pole Vaulter qualified for nationals. Thomas finished sixth in the event, and at the Big Ten Championships she finished second.   

Again, as if it hadn’t been said before, Howell won the Big Ten outdoor championship in the 1500-meter, her third straight win. Ridiculously, a couple hours later she finished second in the 5000 meter. 

Overall, Illinois track and field tends to be trending upward. A couple of All-Americans, a couple of great finishes, a couple of broken records and week by week improvement stand as a testament to that. Newly minted Director of Track, Field and Cross Country Petros Kyprianou must be happy.

“We are officially out of the double-digit place wise as a team,” Kyprianous said on the last day of the Big Ten outdoor championships. “With the women’s team having the highest finish in the last 10 years and the men in the last two years. It’s a testament of this team buying in and the coaching staff doing a fantastic job of developing these athletes. If you compare the indoor and outdoor finishes, I am very happy where we are headed.”

 

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