Men’s track and field look to shake rust at Purdue

Mike Poehlein coached the Purdue men’s track and field team from 1982 to 2001.

During that time, he led the Boilermakers to the school’s first second-place team finish in 1989 and then again in 1990 and 2001. During his 20-year tenure, Purdue placed at the NCAA Championships 17 times.

Mike Turk, interim-head coach of the Illinois men’s track and field team, will take his squad into West Lafayette, Ind., this weekend where, for the past five years, the Boilermakers have hosted the Mike Poehlein Invitational, honoring their former coach.

The Mike Poehlein Invitational will be the Orange and Blue’s second meet of the outdoor track season, but for many of the Illini competing, it will be their first meet since before and during the Big Ten Indoor Championships over a month ago.

“I’m looking forward to our guys getting back into competition mode and just picking up the pieces from the indoor season,” Turk said. “A lot of guys haven’t competed since before the Big Ten Championships, so we’ll see what they can do.”

Turk said that because the meet is not the most glamorous with regards to competition, it will be a perfect chance for his athletes to get back into the swing of things.

Along with Purdue, Big East standouts Louisville and Notre Dame highlight the Illini’s competition.

Being a distance runner, senior Scott Phelps will use the meet to work on his speed. Normally running in the 800 meters, the middle-distance runner will compete only in the 400 meters.

“Because I’m running an off event, I’ll be a little more relaxed than usual,” Phelps said. “It’s nice to go out and compete and not worry about what your time is. If I win, great, but if not I won’t be too torn up about it.”

At last week’s Yellow Jacket Invitational, sophomore Kyle Engnell won the steeple chase. Going into this weekend, he said his performance was a good indicator of things to come.

“It’s definitely a confidence booster, winning the first race of the season,” Engnell said. “You’re never really satisfied being a distance runner, but it was a solid season opener.”

Turk said this meet will help set the team up for the rest of the season leading up to the Big Ten Outdoor Championships.

Perhaps he and the Illini can start the campaign for the Mike Turk Invitational 30-years from now.

“I’m not worried about that right now,” Turk said. “When I put in my time and if I’m fortunate enough to do what people like Mike Poehlein have done, then we can talk about having a meet named after me.”