Boyle, 4×400 relay highlight women’s track performance at Meyo Invitational

Perseverance was on display for senior Elizabeth Boyle during Saturday’s Meyo Invitational in South Bend, Ind. During the 3000-meter race, Boyle ran into some trouble as she was knocked to the ground by another competitor. Head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said the senior could have run even better had she not fallen.

“The amazing part about the 3,000-meter was that Elizabeth (Boyle) still ran a personal best even after getting knocked to the ground,” Buford-Bailey said. “By the end of the race, Elizabeth was able to finish before the girl that knocked her down, too. I guess that served as a little bit of revenge for her.”

The Illini had strong performances from a number of athletes, including Angela Bizzarri, who competed for the first time since she won the national championship in cross country last fall. Bizzarri provisionally qualified for nationals in the 3,000-meter race with a time of 9:16.75. The senior just missed automatically qualifying for nationals by 0.75 seconds, but Buford-Bailey said she expects Bizzarri to return to form in the upcoming meets.

“Angela showed a little bit of rust at the end of the race, but she hasn’t competed since cross country so that is to be expected,” Buford-Bailey said. “She was a little mad about just missing the automatic bid, but she will be fine.”

Along with Bizzarri, sophomore Kristin Sutherland also provisionally qualified for nationals in the 5,000-meter race with a time of 16:43.68 in her first race of the season. The time was good enough to take third in the event.

In addition to the success of the distance team, Tamika Robinson and Melissa Bates had big days to help the Illini’s chances. Robinson ran the fastest time in the preliminary heat in the 60-meter hurdles before she ran the same time in the finals to finish third overall.

Bates was the highest individual finisher in the running events for the Orange and Blue. She finished second in the 300 meters with a personal best of 39.09.

Also, Bates was the anchor of the 4×400 relay team that edged Mississippi to win. The time was good enough for the team to provisionally qualify for the NCAA Indoor Championships.

Marissa Golliday, Ashley Kelly, Ryisha Boyd and Bates made up the team that will hope to improve on its time before next week’s Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark. Kelly said the group did a good job of calming each other down before the race.

“This was our first race against good competition, so we came out there with some nerves,” Kelly said. “During the race, we were all cheering each other on, so it helped with the nerves. Today was a good race because we really got to test ourselves.”

The 4×400 team’s win was the highlight of the day for the Illini, but coach Buford-Bailey is still looking for the perfect combination in the 4×400.

“We are still trying to toy around with the 4×400 team because we are looking for our first leg to get stronger,” Buford-Bailey said. “None of the girls that we are considering have really stood out from the rest of the pack, yet. If we are going to be qualifying nationally, we will have to have four strong pieces.”