Men’s track splits up, heads to Iowa State, Arkansas

Interviewed separately, interim head coach Mike Turk and distance coach Wendel McRaven had one word to describe the competition the Illinois men’s track and field team will face this weekend: hot.

The team is splitting up and going to two different meets. Turk is taking the five top performers on the team — junior Matt McHugh (throws), senior Greg Shroka (high jump), sophomore Andrew Riley (sprints/hurdles/jumps), junior Oz Lifshitz (long jump) and sophomore Stanley Azie (sprints) — to the highly competitive Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark. McRaven will take the rest of this week’s travel roster to the Iowa State Classic in Ames, Iowa.

“I don’t like splitting up the team and I don’t do it very often,” Turk said. “With such a young team, I’d rather not have guys competing without their event coaches with them at the meet. We’re doing it this week in order to get our guys the right competition.”

McRaven said about 3,800 athletes will be competing in the Iowa State Classic.

“It’s a big meet that runs the gambit,” McRaven said. “This meet is high-level stuff, particularly the sprinting and middle-distance events. It’ll be a good, solid meet, that’s for sure.”

Turk had similar sentiments when speaking of the Tyson Invitational.

“It’s a very elite meet. The world is going to be there,” Turk said.

After winning the 300-meter dash and his second career individual title at the Meyo Invitational last week, freshman Bai Kabba is looking to keep his momentum going this weekend.

“Last week’s performance gives me a lot of confidence,” Kabba said, who will run the 200-meter dash, 400-meter dash and the 4×400-meter relay. “I expect a drop in my times and to run faster than last meet.”

Sophomore Dan Kremske is also looking to improve on his success of late. Last week, Kremske shattered his personal-best time in the 3000 meters by eight seconds.

“After (getting a personal record), I’m hoping to build off of it,” Kremske said. “It’ll be a very competitive race, so who knows what will happen. I’m still exploring my abilities and am trying to get more comfortable in race situations, like when to make my move and when to stay back.”

Because the Illini won’t participate in a team-scored meet until the Big Ten Championships in two weeks, Turk’s normal goal for the meet — winning — has been modified.

“It will be a successful weekend if in both meets, no one gets hurt,” Turk said. “If we can survive healthily and build momentum, we’ll be in pretty good shape.”