Women’s track looks for fresh start in new season

With spring finally here, the women’s track and field team will begin its outdoor season on Friday at the Horned Frog Invitational in Fort Worth, Texas.

Six Illini will compete during Friday’s meet, while head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said more team members will meet up with the competitors after the competition for a Spring Break trip.

“We got a majority of our team heading down to Texas,” Buford-Bailey said. “We are going to stay down there through Thursday and train.”

Latoya Griffith will hope to pick up right where she left off last season in the outdoor 400-meter hurdles, where the sophomore advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

Joining Griffith in the 400 hurdles will be fellow sophomore Jayla McArthur. Buford-Bailey said she expects McArthur to progress in her second year in the event.

“Jayla was just learning the 400 hurdles last year and competed at the Big Ten Championships,” Buford-Bailey said. “We are hoping that this year will be a break-out year for her.”

Tamika Robinson, fresh off running the 60-meter hurdles at the NCAA Indoor Championships last weekend, will now shift to the 100-meter hurdles and the 200 meter dash for the outdoor season. Buford-Bailey said she does not expect Robinson to be affected while switching to the 100 hurdles.

“The 100-meter hurdles is an event that you have to run as often as possible, because you have to get the rhythm of the race,” Buford-Bailey said. “The only thing that might affect her is if there is a little tail wind, because you don’t have to worry about that indoors.”

In the field events, Aja Evans will look to use the momentum she gained late in the indoor season as she won the Big Ten Indoor Championships in the shot put and earned an All-American honor last weekend at the NCAA Indoor Championships. Evans will be competing in the shot put as well as the discus throw, but the senior said she is hoping to continue the same things in the outdoor season that she did indoors.

“I think outdoors I will be throwing a lot further and a lot better, but I have to just continue the same things that I have been doing,” Evans said. “I’m not going to put any extra pressure on myself, I’m just going to put a lot more into it because I want to have a good last year.”

A trio of pole vaulters will join Evans in the field events. Elizabeth Eitzen, Kaitlyn Vicari and Maria Scheet will hope to get a good start to the outdoor season in the event.

Buford-Bailey said the fresh start of an outdoor season will be good for the whole team.

“The people that had disappointing years indoors are looking to redeem themselves outdoors, while I know the people that have good momentum going will be looking to keep that going,” Buford-Bailey said. “There’s always a personal goal from one season to the next.”