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Kendziera, Wells shine in California

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Kendziera, Wells shine in California

By Jared Farmer, Staff Writer

The Illinois men’s track and field team split up this weekend to showcase individual competition.

Senior David Kendziera and junior Jonathan Wells both had career weekends at the Bray Clay and Beach Invitationals and the Mt. SAC Relays in California this weekend.

“We thought this experience was really good. They handled everything very well, what with being in different locations and competing at different times,” said head coach Mike Turk. “The staff put a lot of work in to organize our events, and I think they worked out pretty well. Our performances speak for what they did.”

The team began competition on Thursday evening, where distance runners junior Dan Lathrop and sophomore Zach Dale ran 14:02 and 15:36 respectively in the 5k at the Bryan Clay Invite. Junior Billy Magnesen ran 29:42 in the 10k at Mt. SAC.

On Friday, Wells won the title for long jump at Mt. SAC after clearing the third-longest distance in Illini history. In a field featuring five jumpers clearing 25 feet or above, Wells added four inches to his previous personal best, clearing 25 feet and 10 inches, taking the lead over Oregon’s Tristan James.

“We know that Jonathan is very talented, and he’s worked very hard and is capable of something like this. Since indoors, the coaches and I have talked about him possibly clearing 26 feet this year,” Turk said. “I think he’s gaining valuable experience as he improves, so I’m really pleased with the way he performed.”

In addition to Wells’s long jump performance, the Illini also had a personal best performance from sophomore pole vaulter Jacob LaRocca. At the Beach Invite, LaRocca cleared 17 1/4 feet to win the event, with the next highest mark belonging to fellow sophomore Cooper Jazo’s 16-6 3/4 feet. Senior thrower Matsen Dziedzic also won his flight of the hammer throw, marking 199-5 feet. At the Bryan Clay Invite, seniors Luke Brahm, Garrett Lee and junior Denis O’Callaghan each posted season-best in the 1,500-meter run in their respective heats. Brahm clocked a 3:46.98, Lee ran a 3:47.93 and O’Callaghan rounded out the event with a time of 3:49.95.

The Illini concluded competition on Saturday, where Kendziera won the 110-meter hurdles at Mt. SAC, beating out 2012 Olympic Champion Aries Merritt by .02 seconds with a time of 13.47 seconds.

“That was a pretty special win for David,” Turk said. “Merritt is one of the all-time greats. It’s great that our guys get a chance to compete against those kinds of people, but to knock someone like that off is something that I’m sure David is going to remember for a long time.”

After his victory in the 110-meter hurdles, Kendziera came back to place second in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 49.39. Kendziera still remains undefeated this season.

Also competing in the elite section at the Mt. SAC was junior Devin Quinn. He nearly duplicated his facility-record-breaking time from the Illinois Twilight Meet with a time of 10.12 seconds in the 100-meter dash. Quinn took fifth place in the event. Nike’s Ronnie Baker won the event, finishing with a time of 9.97 seconds.

Quinn returned in the 200-meter dash, finishing third overall. Quinn was the second collegiate finisher with a time of 20.82 seconds.

In addition to individual standout performances on Saturday, the Illini had success in the 4×100 and 4×400-meter relays. The 4×100 unit posted 39.88 seconds to take second, marking the third time this season that the Illini ran a 4×100 in under 40 seconds. The 4×400-meter relay also concluded the weekend for the Illini with a season-best time of 3:10.52 — shaving two seconds off the previous seasonal-best set at the Jim Click Shootout.

“I think, right now, as a team, we’re really solid,” Turk said. “We’re really good on the front end. Guys like Kendziera, Quinn and Wells are NCAA scorers that could contribute on any program, and that’s a foundation that not many other teams in the Big Ten have.”

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