Bizzarri ties school record in mile run

With 13 of the top 25 teams in the nation and five Big Ten teams on display in Saturday’s Tyson Invitational, senior Angela Bizzarri proved once again why she is one of the country’s best distances runners.

The senior, who has won national championships in cross country and the 5,000 meters, won the mile run with the fourth fastest time in the NCAA this season. The 4:40.68 time tied the 22-year old school record and provisionally qualified Bizzarri for the NCAA Indoor Championships. Bizzarri is now the holder of four different Illinois indoor records.

Head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said Bizzarri’s work ethic is why she excels.

“Under any competition and under any circumstances, Angela is just a winner,” Buford-Bailey said. “She is very competitive and a smart runner. She has been working on getting her speed down, and it looks like that is definitely working.”

Along with Bizzarri, a number of athletes stepped up their games against the intense competition. The 4×400 meter relay team of sophomore Ryisha Boyd, sophomore Ashley Kelly, freshman Marissa Golliday and sophomore Latoya Griffith took ninth out of 29 teams and provisionally qualified for the indoor championships.

The 4×400 team achieved a season-best time of 3:38.50, without its normal anchor Melissa Bates. Buford-Bailey said Bates had twisted her ankle before the 4×400 relay, which prompted the coaches to replace her in the race.

“The good thing about the 4×400 is that we proved that we have five really good legs,” Buford-Bailey said. “Not a lot of teams out there can say that about their teams.”

Before Bates’ injury, she posted personal bests in the 200 meters and 400 meters. Her time of 54.49 in the 400 placed her 16th out of 112 runners.

In the 60-meter hurdles, junior Tamika Robinson recorded a personal-best time of 8.36, which was good enough for seventh best in the preliminary rounds, before also being bit by the injury bug. The junior was a late scratch from the finals because of a tweaked hamstring, but Buford-Bailey said Robinson’s injury should not affect her for the rest of the season.

“Scratching Robinson from the finals was just a precautionary measure. We are sure that she will be fine in the next couple weeks,” Buford-Bailey said.

The 200-meter dash was highlighted by solid performances from Ashley Kelly and Kayla Smith. Kelly posted a personal-best time in the race, while Smith missed a personal-best time by a hundredth of a second. Buford-Bailey said she was happy that Smith might be finding the race that fits her best.

“It is always good to find out what every athlete is best at running, and I think we have found out that Kayla’s specialty is the 200-meter dash,” Buford-Bailey said. “It’s important now for her to keep on getting faster.”

One bright spot of the meet was Theresa Brokaw’s impressive showing in the 3,000 meters. Buford-Bailey said the senior, who has battled lower leg injuries the past couple seasons, won her preliminary heat and ran a good competitive race throughout.

As the team prepares for next week’s meet at the EIU Friday Night Special, Buford-Bailey said she is impressed with her team’s progression this year.

“We had so many personal bests this week,” Buford-Bailey said. “We are performing better at this point of the season than we were last year, which is really important heading into the final part of the (indoor) season.”