Track heads South for Battle on the Bayou

The Illinois men’s track and field team will get a chance to see how they stack up against some of the best teams in the nation this weekend.

The Illini will travel Baton Rouge, La., to compete in LSU’s Battle on the Bayou. Among others, the Illini will battle with the likes of No. 2 LSU, No. 7 Texas Tech, No. 9 Mississippi State and No. 20 Iowa. The meet will also be the first of the outdoor season for All-American Andrew Riley, as well as other top Illini athlete’s first meet in which they will compete in their top events.

“With the competition this weekend we’re really looking forward to this meet,” head coach Mike Turk said. “Obviously, we’re going to have some top level competition from across the country and it’s a great facility, the weather is going to be hot, this is a great early season meet for us.”

Riley, who sat out the first two meets after a grueling indoor season, will make his season debut in the 110-meter hurdles, an event that he narrowly lost his national title to last season to LSU’s Barrett Nugent by five-hundredths of a second.

“I expect to go out there and have some fun,” Riley said. “With Nugent, the guy I’ve been battling over the years, it’s going to be a good competition, it’s good for him and it’s good for me.”

Riley isn’t getting caught up in old rivalries, however. He’s plans to treat this meet just as it is, his first meet of the season.

“I’m just looking to go out there to get the rust off,” Riley said. “It’s my first meet of the outdoor season so I’m just going out there to have some fun and get back in the competitive spirit.”

Riley will also compete in the 4×100 meter relay along side fellow All-American senior Stanley Azie, freshman Brandon Stryganek and senior Josh Zinzer. It will be the first time this season that the Orange and Blue will have their top relay squad out on the track.

“It’s going to start with seeing our performances, seeing our time and our distances improve and that’s the big thing,” Turk said. “I think we’ll see quite a bit of improvement.”

Freshman Joey McAsey and sophomore Ryan Lynn will also open their competition in the 800 meters this weekend, an event that could prove pivotal in the team’s final standing on the leader board.

“We’re going to be opening up with some of our guys that haven’t been on the track yet this outdoor spring, or guys that haven’t been running their main events,” Turk said.

The meet should provide the Illini with the benchmark it’s been looking for, as their top performers will have an opportunity to see how they stack up against top-notch competition and see what needs to be done to improve.

“I’ll be looking back and comparing where they were at this time last year,” Turk said. “I know all indications have been that we’re a little ahead of where we were last year at this time, so I want to see that trend continue.”