Practice lessons pave way for meet win

By Daniel Johnson

Head Coach Gary Winckler has been stressing the idea of applying what his runners learn in practice to the day of the meet. On Saturday, at the Carle/Health Alliance Invite, he got the results he was looking for.

The Illini women’s track and field team took advantage of the crowd of 1,120 fans at the Armory to dominate the Invitational. Illinois tripled Iowa’s second-place score of 62 to win the meet with a dominating 186 point event total.

“This week, a lot of the athletes stepped up their game in terms of applying that practice mentality, and what they’ve learned to practice for in competitive situations. We had a lot of nice improvement today, too,” Winckler said. “We worked real hard this week, so that makes it even more pleasing to perform as well.”

Senior Yvonne Mensah had a “career day” in Winckler’s eyes, anchoring the Illini win. Mensah won the 60-meter, 200-meter and long jump with times of 7.38 and 23.87, a career best, and a distance of 20’02.50″ respectively. The trio of performances were provisional qualifiers for each event. She netted 30 points toward the Illini total, outscoring DePaul, SIU-Edwardsville and Saint Louis University by herself.

Additionally, the Illini took the 3,000-meter (Stephanie Sims, 9:49:86), the Pole Vault (Ashley Whittaker, 11’11.75″) and swept the 1-mile run, earning all 31 event points with the top 3 of Angela Bizzarri, Liz Mengyan and Jamie Kuhl. Even with the success, however, Winckler is cautious to let complacency set in.

“I think all aspects of our performances can be improved upon,” Winckler said. “I think that we can be thinking a little bit more in our race strategies, and do a little better preparing for races, mentally, that is. It certainly is getting better than it was a week ago, and it will continue to get better.”

The Illini will travel to Bloomington and South Bend next weekend for the Indiana Invitational and Meyo Invitational, the first of the team’s two-day invites.

“We’re going to be going into a big competition, with several rounds, so we’re looking at Bloomington as one of our first dress rehearsals for the conference championship,” Winckler said.