Bizzarri continues dominance with third national title

Late Saturday night, Angela Bizzarri’s championship dominance was on display once again. She continued her national championship winning streak as she won the 3,000 meter title at the NCAA Indoor Championships. The senior has now won three national championships (3,000; 5,000; cross country), which distance coach Jeremy Rasmussen said is a feat that not many people in the history of the sport have been able to accomplish.

“Another national championship is just a continuation of her trying to get better with each race,” Rasmussen said. “She has been able to win in all different events. Coming into this meet she had an outdoor title (5,000) and a cross country title, but to add this to her resume is a huge feat.”

The senior won her third national championship by breaking her own school record in the event by 13 seconds to edge Iowa State’s Lisa Koll by just over a tenth of a second.

Bizzarri sat in third-place behind Villanova’s Sheila Reid and Koll until the final lap and used her signature kick to clinch her third national championship title. Bizzarri said Koll’s overall strategy was to wear out Bizzarri so she would not be able to use that kick at the end.

“Generally, the last 800 meters of the race are my best, where people see that if I am still close, I will generally end up winning, Bizzarri said.

“The last 200 meters of the race I was leading Koll slightly, but being in front I didn’t even realize that she was closing in on me. It was kind of scary not being able to see how close she was to me at the end.”

The victory earned Bizzarri her ninth All-America honor to add to the seven school records. Bizzarri said ending her indoor collegiate career with a bang was one of her goals going into the meet.

“Any time you end a chapter in sports or anything, you want to go out with a bang,” Bizzarri said. “Going into the meet, we thought it was a definite possibility that I could win, and in the end it ended up working out.”

The national championship win will propel Bizzarri into her last collegiate season, as the Illini women’s track and field team will begin the outdoor season when they head to the Stanford Invitational from March 26-27. Rasmussen said Bizzarri and the coaches worked out a plan early in the year to make sure she is fresh for an entire summer of running.

“Early in the season, we had to make sure that we looked at the whole picture with Angela because she will have a long outdoor season and summer of running,” Rasmussen said. “Hopefully this summer, she will be running in Europe to keep competing for a professional career after her collegiate seasons are over.”

Rasmussen said it is possible for Bizzarri to race in world championships or the Olympics one day.

“(Saturday) Angela reached another level last night and even surprised herself by how fast she ran,” Rasmussen said. “The more she races the more eyes are opening up, so you never know what will happen.”

Earlier on Saturday, senior Aja Evans finished 10th in the shot put to just miss All-America honors. Evans ended the championships with her second-best throw of the season, but it was not long enough to earn her third All-America honor.

On Friday night, junior Tamika Robinson missed qualifying for the 60-meter hurdles finals by a hair. The race came down to a photo review, as Robinson ended up with the 10th fastest time, eight thousandths of a second away from advancing to the finals.