Illinois men’s track cools down at Orange and Blue Open
February 17, 2016
TWEET: With a week until the Big Ten Championships, @IlliniMTrack takes a breather at the Orange and Blue Open. #Illini
By Will Most
After about a month and a half, the Illini men’s track team’s indoor season comes to an end at the Orange and Blue Open.
Originally, Illinois was going to attend two events, the Alex Wilson Invite in South Bend, Indiana, and its event in Champaign. However, the Illini will just compete at the Armory due to a change of plans.
Many Illinois athletes who will compete in the Big Ten Championship will not participate this weekend, but there are some key athletes racing in the Open. Some are fighting for the last spots on the Big Ten roster, others are looking for more experience after battling injury.
For Mo Maat, a sprinter likely to be on the Big Ten roster, the Orange and Blue Open is an opportunity to get a confidence boost after struggling with injuries throughout the season.
“I’m just trying to get more races under myself, that way I can be more crisp for Big Tens,” Maat said. “I’m always optimistic and I have a lot of self-confidence. I’m feeling good about Big Tens, but winning this week would help too.”
For many — especially those with normally limited roles on the team — the Open offers an opportunity for high finishes, as most of the weekend’s in-state schools are not as strong as most of the competition the Illini have faced this season.
Northwestern, Northern Illinois and Western Illinois, as well as various smaller schools across the state will participate.
“It will be a nice little low-key meet, with a chance for us to tune-up,” head coach Mike Turk said.
While the home meet is an important event for the Illini, the week off from major competition and opportunity for rest for the key athletes on the team is just as important.
Illinois fell to No. 62 in the most recent national rankings, Turk sees rest as a key part of the Illini’s attempt to defend its Big Ten indoor title. A total of seven teams in the Big Ten land ahead of the Illlini in the most recent rankings, with No. 14 Penn State leading the charge.
“Regardless of what the rankings are, I know what it takes to do well at the Big Ten Championships,” Turk said. “This team is pasting the eye test. We have guys ready for a Big Ten meet.”