Illini men’s track banking on success in Nebraska

By Will Most

Check out the Radio Feature on Mo Maat by Will Gerard here.

With the rest, practice and people returning from injury, Head Coach Mike Turk thinks his team will be able to start the next half of its season with some success at the Frank Sevigne Husker Invite Friday and Saturday in Lincoln, Nebraska.

“A week off always freshens the team up, both physically and mentally,” Turk said. “It’s just a good break for us from competition with the Big Ten Championship looming in the background.”

After being short-handed in Kentucky, the Illini will be getting several athletes back for the meet.

All-American junior David Kendziera and sophomore Matt Burns will return in the 400 meters, a race Illinois has struggled in since the year’s start.

Another all-American, sophomore sprinter Cole Henderson will also be coming back from a nagging ankle sprain that held him down at the start of the season. Other returning athletes include sprinter Mo Maat, long distance runner Ian Barnett, pole vaulter Mitch Mammoser and sophomore Parker Deloye, who will be competing in the heptathlon.

While the returning athletes are primed to give Illinois a boost this weekend, many core athletes who have led the team thus far will also be a key to the Illini’s success.

Jonathan Wells has won three events and placed second in a heptathlon in the Illini’s first three meets of the season. This weekend, Wells will be focusing on the high jump, but it won’t be a cakewalk — the meet will feature some of the best high jumpers in the country.

“They’ll perform to my standards,” Wells said. “I’m coming back and setting some new goals. I’m planning on jumping higher than seven feet.”

Despite the fact that the Big Ten Indoor Championships are more than a month away, the conference title meet is at the front of Turk’s mind. Despite utilizing almost 40 athletes this weekend, he’s limiting certain Illini’s workload in preparation for Big Tens.

While there isn’t much time to react and change the training based on the team’s results, this weekend’s meet in Nebraska offers a huge opportunity for Illinois, not just because of its proximity to Big Tens, but additionally because of its banked track.

The track contains a degree of elevation and curvature that can’t be found in the Illinois Armory or any of the other tracks the Illini have raced on this year. This type of tracks allow for faster times, and have become the standard for major competitive racing events like the Big Ten Championships.

“I’m really expecting some personal records and top-10 breaks,” Wells said. “I’m looking for my team to step up and show that we have potential to compete at the Big Ten level.”

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