Illini men’s track thrills and disappoints at Husker Invite

By Will Most

When Jonathan Wells was asked whether he would be able to compete at the level of some of his nationally ranked opponents in Nebraska, he responded quickly and bluntly that they would have to compete at his level. 

Such a response is one that is best backed up by a strong performance, which is exactly what Jonathan Wells did this weekend in Nebraska.

“It was a good feeling,” Wells said. “We came in at a pretty high bar and once we did that it gave us an opportunity to get the best result we could have got that day.”

Wells, who has been spending most of practice this year focusing on multi-events, had a weekend to focus on one of his strongest events, the high jump. 

He defeated a slew of nationally ranked opponents, edging out Yun Seunghyun, a jumper who will likely be competing for South Korea in the Summer Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. Even though, Wells’ jump of 2.19 meters won the event and earned him a spot as one of the top-10 collegiate high jumpers. He continues to chase the school record, a mark he missed by only five centimeters this weekend.

“I wanted to give him a chance to compete against a good field and have some fun with it,” Turk said. “He performed like a champion.”

At the Frank Sevigne Husker Invite in Lincoln, Nebraska, Wells was just one of a few notable Illini performances. Junior Dylan Lafond took first in the mile, coming in with a time just slightly over four minutes. Mo Maat, who sat out of competition two weeks ago, took third in the 200 meters. Cam Viney took third in 60 meter hurdles in his second meet back from injury.

But those were the only standout performances for the Illini. And while there were some top-10 finishes here and there, the overall performance was not the outing the team had hoped for. Despite all this, head coach Mike Turk is confident that this weekend can be a lesson to his athletes.

“We took a few lumps this weekend when you take a look results sheet,” Turk said. “I feel like a lot of our young guys withstood that pressure. The next time it will be easier for them.”

The Illini have only three more weekends until the Big Ten Indoor Championships, with events in Ames, Iowa, and South Bend on the way. While Lafond and Wells are set up for success at the Big Ten and beyond, Turk’s focus remains on getting the team as a whole ready for success when the team travels to Geneva, Ohio at the end of the month.

“There are quite a few things we are still evaluating,” Turk said. “We have people still fighting to try make the Big Ten roster. We will have opportunities in the next couple weeks, and they will have to step up and earn a spot.”

[email protected]
@Will_Most