Team chemistry leads men’s track to 15 personal bests

The idea of team chemistry in track and field can be absent, even in a team-scored meet.

But when the Illinois men’s track and field team competed in the individually scored Meyo Invitational, where the team recorded 15 personal bests last weekend, it took everyone working as a team to accumulate the performances the Orange and Blue had.

“Our team chemistry is a lot better than in the past,” interim head coach Mike Turk said. “It is critical for us because we are such a young team and it is often overlooked in our sport. A lot of our younger guys are going through a discovery phase, and it’s up to our older guys to set the tone for everyone.”

Sophomore Andrew Riley continued his trek toward qualifying for nationals in the 60-meter dash when he ran a personal best for the fourth straight week with a time of 6.74 seconds. Freshman Bai Kabba added another individual title to his resume, winning the 300-meter dash title with a time of 34.41 seconds.

“I actually wasn’t as tired as I thought I’d be,” Kabba said. “Running on a 300-meter track, there weren’t as many turns. As a result, I was able to run a faster time.”

In what he called “the first notable event I’ve competed in college so far,” redshirt sophomore Dan Kremske gained a sizeable personal best in the 3,000-meter run with a time of 8:15.89, as he finished in 13th place.

“I had some jitters going into the race, but I think that helped my performances,” Kremske said. “I had never been in a heat where it was the featured heat. I think it helped me to focus more on what I needed to do and then doing what I know I need to do, like focusing on warm-ups and getting myself prepared to run in a big-time race like that.”

In the field events, sophomore pole-vaulter Alex Baldwin had a personal-best 4.90-meter mark, while junior Oz Lifshitz was fourth in the triple jump with a 14.96-meter leap. Freshman Ryan Michel was ninth in the high jump with a distance of 2.06 meters.

Next up for the Illini is a split-squad event. The majority of the team will compete at the Iowa State Classic in Ames, Iowa, while the top performers on the team will head to Fayetteville, Ark., for the Tyson Invitational. The final roster for who will be attending the meet in Arkansas is yet to be determined. Riley, senior Greg Shroka, Lifshitz and junior Matt McHugh will most likely compete.

“This is the most cohesive unit I’ve ever seen,” Turk said. “There’s a lot of young talent that has a long way to go, but I think a lot of it is because of our older guys. We can be much better than the sum of our parts.”