Riley captures award, numerous victories at Sea Ray Relays

Two Illinois men’s track and field athletes shined during the weekend as the Illini had a strong showing in two meets.

Junior Andrew Riley received the Tony Wilson Award on Saturday at the Sea Ray Relays in Knoxville, Tenn. The award honored him as the most outstanding performer on the track for the meet.

Riley highlighted Friday’s competition with a first-place finish in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 13.96 seconds.

“He still has a little ways to go, he’s not anywhere near peak form,” head coach Mike Turk said. “But that was a heck of a good field he ran against.”

The Kingston, Jamaica, native continued his success Saturday, anchoring the winning 4×200 meter relay. He also led off Illinois’ second-place finish in the 4×100.

In the 4×200, Illinois competed against Tennessee and Riley took over in the last leg of the race.

“It was just amazing how easy it was for Andrew,” Turk said. “It just looked so easy and he was tremendous even though I know that was a little longer distance.”

At the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif., Kyle Engnell ran a record-breaking time in a second-place finish in the 3,000 meter steeplechase Thursday night.

“I just kind of hung in there and got pulled through for most of the race and then with a few laps to go, it started to be competitive and I tried to win the race.”

The junior beat his personal best time by nearly 10 seconds.

“Kyle has been on the verge of a performance like that for a year now,” Turk said.

“We have great confidence in Kyle’s ability and the way he’s developed in the steeplechase.”

Engnell’s time of 8 minutes, 48.45 seconds ranks him sixth in program history. He currently ranks fourth in the NCAA and first in the Big Ten.

“It’s awesome, Illinois has had some pretty good steeplechasers so it’s pretty cool just to have my name down as one of them,” Engnell said. “Hopefully it will be there for a while and hopefully this season I’ll have more left in the tank and be able to run a little faster.”

Engnell’s focus is now on the Drake Relays in two weeks and the Big Ten Championships the week after.

“This race gives me the confidence to know that I can run up toward the front of both races and compete for the win,” Engnell said.

The Illini garnered two other event titles at the Sea Ray Relays.

Freshman Zebo Zebe won the 800 meters unseeded with a time of 1:53.36.

“I know that Zebo Is really capable, and he was out all of last year with a pretty serious injury,” Turk said.

“He’s really close to his old PR and every week he just starts to look like he’s gaining more confidence and getting better.”

Zebe also ran a strong leg in Illinois’ first-place finish in the 4×800 meter relay.

Two season-best second-place performances came from junior Stanley Azie in the 200 meters and senior Cody Wisslead in the 400-meter hurdles.

The Illini will travel to Iowa City, Iowa, next weekend to compete at the Musco Twilight.

“We haven’t seen too much of the Big Ten teams for the most part, so it will be nice to go and bang around with them,” Turk said.