Outdoor Season Underway for Illini Women's Track and Field

Illinois%27+Valerie+Bobart+competes+in+the+1+mile+run+during+the+Orange+and+Blue+meet+on+Saturday%2C+February+20%2C+2016.+Valerie+placed+9th+in+the+mile+with+a+time+of+5%3A08.32.
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Outdoor Season Underway for Illini Women's Track and Field

Illinois' Valerie Bobart competes in the 1 mile run during the Orange and Blue meet on Saturday, February 20, 2016. Valerie placed 9th in the mile with a time of 5:08.32.

Illinois' Valerie Bobart competes in the 1 mile run during the Orange and Blue meet on Saturday, February 20, 2016. Valerie placed 9th in the mile with a time of 5:08.32.

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Valerie Bobart competes in the 1 mile run during the Orange and Blue meet on Saturday, February 20, 2016. Valerie placed 9th in the mile with a time of 5:08.32.

Austin Yattoni

Austin Yattoni

Illinois' Valerie Bobart competes in the 1 mile run during the Orange and Blue meet on Saturday, February 20, 2016. Valerie placed 9th in the mile with a time of 5:08.32.

By Jacob Diaz

The Illini went to Tempe, Arizona, AGfor the Baldy Castillo Invite where the Illini faced some tough competition. Participating teams included Arizona State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Big Ten rival Iowa.AG

Sophomore Valerie BobartAG started strong for the Illini, winning the opening event, the 3,000 meter steeplechase. Bobart’s time of 10 minutes, 48.2 seconds AGwas more than enough to beat out her competition with the closest competitor finishing 30 seconds behind her.AG

The Illini failed to win any other events, but still had some strong individual performances.

Leading the way was Illinois’ hurdling duo, freshman Jayla Stewart and junior Kortni Smyers-Jones. The pair took two of the top five spots in their event. Stewart almost matched her personal record in the 100-meter hurdles, finishing second with a time of 13.81 seconds.AG Smyers-Jones placed fourth in the same event with a time of 14.01 seconds.AG

The hurdlers were without sophomore Pedrya Seymour, who was representing the Bahamas at the International Association of Athletic Federations World Indoor Championships in Portland, Oregon.

Sophomore Janile Rogers set a personal best time of 11.86 seconds in the 100 meter dash.AG Despite posting a personal record, she finished tenth. Rogers also set a personal best in the 200 meter dash, finishing the race in 24.20 seconds. She finished in 14th .AG

The Illini 4×100 meter relay team of Sade Hargrove, Jayla Stewart, Kortni Smyers-Jones and Kymbriona Taylor finished third with a time of 45.64 seconds.AG Iowa and Oklahoma took the first and second.AG

The team then traveled to Nashville, Tennessee, to compete in the Black and Gold Invitational hosted by Vanderbilt University.AG

The Illini started the competition off strong with two top-10 finishes in the first two events.

Sophomore Hanna Winter finished in seventh in the 1500 meter. Her time of 4:35.37 AGwas just three seconds shy of her personal best, but it was almost 10 seconds behind Vanderbilt’s Katherine Delaney who took home first place.AG

Rogers continued to perform well, placing fourth in the 200 with a time of 24.69 seconds.AG She later tied with Smyers-Jones for ninth place in the 100 meter.AG Two other Illini finished in the top 10 in the 100 meter.AG Stewart won her heat and placed fifth overall, and Taylor took home second overall.AG Taylor’s time of 11.95 was the best among collegiate competition, but she couldn’t keep up with Janet Amponsah, who is also sprinter for the Ghanaian national team.AG

After their top-five finishes in Tempe, hurdlers Stewart and Smyers-Jones both improved on their times at the Black and Gold Invitational. Stewart placed third with a time of 13.65,AG and Smyers-Jones’s 13.94 second finish put her in fourth.AG

The 4×100 meter relay team of Hargrove, Stewart, Smyers-Jones and Taylor bested their time from Tempe and finished in 45.62 seconds. AGThe score put them in second place, 0.03 seconds behind Western Kentucky and 0.3 seconds in front of Tennessee State.AG

In the 3,000 meters, sophomores Denise Branch and Bobart finished back to back, placing sixth and seventh respectively.AG Branch finished in 10:08.80,AG while Bobart finished in 10:09.32.AG Neither was particularly close to Vanderbilt’s Carmen Carlos, however, who took home first with a time of 9:28.97.AG

The Illini rounded out the day with the pole vaulters taking home third and 10th. Senior Jennifer DeBellis cleared 3.85 meters on her third attempt AGto win third place and sophomore Sara McKeeman cleared 3.55 meters to finish 10th.AG

The Illini will continue their outdoor campaign this weekend as they travel to Charleston, Illinois, to compete in the Big Blue Classic.AG

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@Jacob_Diaz31