Robinson returning to familiar track for Illinois Intercollegiates

Throughout the beginning of the season, head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey has preached progression to the women’s track and field team. Buford-Bailey has said that the most important part to being successful during a long season is to continue to improve week after week to be able to peak at the right time — the Big Ten Championships.

The team will take its next step of the season when it travels to Charleston, Ill., this Saturday for the Illinois Intercollegiate meet. Buford-Bailey said the key for her team to continue its winning ways is to keep the intensity up in practice.

“Last week we just wanted to make sure that we performed well at home, but this week in practice we have picked up the intensity level,” Buford-Bailey said. “We have not had a problem raising the intensity level because we have a strong core and the girls are very competitive with each other. They push each other in practice, and it carries over for the meets.”

Buford-Bailey’s team will rest a few key runners, including national champion Angela Bizzarri (distance). Buford-Bailey has given the cross country runners on the team a chance to rest from competition because the long cross country season ended only a short while ago.

“With Angela and the rest of the cross country girls, we want to give them a chance to take a little of time off between the seasons, so they will be able to come back strong for the Big Ten season,” Buford-Bailey said. “We are going to hold them out until our meet at Notre Dame (in the Meyo Invitational on Feb 5-6).”

As for Saturday, Tamika Robinson will hope to improve on her dominance of the track in Charleston. Last season, Robinson posted her personal bests in the 60-meter dash (7.53 seconds) and in the 60-meter hurdles, which she then broke a week later. The junior has history on the track in Charleston. In high school, she would visit the same track during her high school season.

“It’s a really good track, and I think I have been able to have success there because I am very comfortable on it,” Robinson said. “I hope to do better this year because I have been working on my endurance. It helps me when I am moving from one event to another.”

Freshman Kayla Smith will also be looking to continue her coach’s goal of improving week by week in the 200-meter dash after taking fourth last weekend in the Carle/Health Alliance Classic. Buford-Bailey also hopes that Smith will be able to improve in her other event, the 4×400 meter relay.

Smith expects the third meet of her career to be better than her first two because she is finally recovering from an injury that she suffered before the first meet of the season in Carbondale, Ill.

“I’ve been running with a hamstring injury since the first meet, which I feel has held me back a little,” Smith said. “I’ve been receiving treatment for it ever since and have been focusing on getting my 60-meter dash time down.”

The team will only be bringing 23 athletes to the meet, but Buford-Bailey is confident in her team’s ability because of its depth.

“I think our biggest strength is we have people contributing across the board,” the coach said. “We have someone that can get us points in every event, which makes our team that much stronger.”