Women’s track starters rest while young athletes compete at EIU

With the Big Ten Indoor Championships a week away, the women’s track and field team will be resting its best athletes to give some of its younger athletes a chance to compete.

The Illini will be competing at the EIU Friday Night Special in Charleston, Ill. Although the spots for the Big Ten Championship have been decided, junior Kelly Washington said she is excited for the opportunity to compete in another meet in the triple jump.

“Over the season I have learned to relax before I jump and to just let my body do what it is capable of doing,” Washington said.

“This meet is a good chance for us to get competition experience.”

Washington is among the 10 athletes who will compete at EIU on Friday in a meet that the Illini will take seven freshmen and three juniors to. Kendra Kennedy, a freshman distance runner who will be running the 800 meters, hopes that her preparation this week can erase the not-so-fond memories of the last time she ran at EIU.

“Last time, I got tripped up by a couple other girls’ feet and fell to the track,” Kennedy said. “The coaches have been drilling my form into me, so I have been working on bringing my legs up higher when I run and to pump my arms more.”

At EIU, two Illini pole vaulters will be given the chance to show their talents. Freshman Maria Scheet and junior Kaitlin Vicari will look to repeat the success they both had at the Carle/Health Alliance Classic on Jan. 23.

Scheet and Vicari finished second and third, respectively, at the meet, which was hosted at the Armory.

Head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said she expects Vicari to perform well because of her success in practice.

“All week, Vicari has been nailing her jumps,” Buford-Bailey said. “Hopefully, she will be able to put it all together in an actual meet.”

The bye week for the Illini’s first team will benefit two Illini, Tamika Robinson and Melissa Bates, as they returned to normal practice after injuring themselves last weekend at the Tyson Invitational in Arkansas. While Robinson and Bates have been able to practice normally, Buford-Bailey said sophomore Ryisha Boyd has been battling a lingering foot injury all season.

“Ryisha ran through her pain last weekend, but she hasn’t been able to train fully because of the injury,” Buford-Bailey said.

After a big meet like the Tyson Invitational and the biggest meet of the year thus far a week away, the team will support its athletes in Friday’s meet, but the major focus will be to get sharp and prepared for the Big Ten Championships. While some teams may have a letdown in practice after a big meet going into a bye week, Buford-Bailey said her team used the past week of practice and will use the next to maintain the same style of practice to help her team’s chances.

“I feel we are just about where we were last year at this point in the season,” Buford-Bailey said. “We have a young group of girls, and we have been preparing for the Big Ten meet all season, so I don’t feel like we have had a let down in practice.”