Bizzarri adds to legacy at Big Tens

Tonja Buford-Bailey believes her team is better than fifth place.

But fifth is just where the women’s track and field team finished after last weekend’s outdoor Big Ten Championships, when it scored 87 points.

“We’ve got some holes to fill,” head coach Buford-Bailey said. “There are events that we didn’t score any points in. If we’ve got any event that we did not score one single point in, then we’ve got to work on that.”

But while the team’s overall finish did not quite live up to its expectations, Buford-Bailey pointed to several individual highlights. Of those, Angela Bizzarri stands out.

The senior from Mason, Ohio, finished her last Big Tens with a bang, taking two event titles and resetting another one of her school records.

Her two titles came in two very different ways.

Distance coach Jeremy Rasmussen said the plan entering the 1,500 meters was for Angela to stay with the pack, get a lead and then extend it toward the end.

With about two laps remaining, Angela began to take her lead.

“At that point it was just about trying to string the field out as much as we possibly could and really give her an opportunity to finish strong and hopefully drop everybody. Well, that didn’t quite happen,” Rasmussen said.

Minnesota’s Gabriele Anderson stayed with Bizzarri. When all was said and done, Bizzarri would need a personal-best if she was going to win.

“At the end I just saw her coming within the last second and trying to give a little nudge to take first. It was such a close race,” Bizzarri said.

Once the race was done, Bizzarri had finished in four minutes, 15.42 seconds ­— a school record, and one hundredth of a second faster than Anderson.

The intensity of the 1,500 race contrasted with the 5,000 meters, which Bizzarri won easily in 16:12.35 — a time 39.33 seconds slower than her personal best.

At Big Tens, however, Bizzarri said times don’t matter.

“I couldn’t tell you what time I got today,” Bizzarri said. “It wasn’t the main goal. I could go out there and try to run a fast time, but if I got second it really wouldn’t matter.”

The Big Ten Championships are one of the few times track and field becomes a team sport, and Bizzarri scored 20 of Illinois’ 87 points.

But Big Tens are also the only time Bizzarri will run three races (counting preliminaries) in one weekend.

Will she miss that part of it?

“No,” Bizzarri chuckled. “Not at all.”