Illini take 7 titles in season opener

By Thomas Donley

The Illinois men’s track and field team got its season underway at the Illini Open on Saturday, Jan. 11, at the UI Armory. Seven Illini earned first place in their respective events, while another 11 placed in the top three in theirs.

“We had a really good opening meet,” head coach Mike Turk said in a press release. “Of course, we had some rough spots, and we have a couple of guys that are a little banged up, but overall we brought some really good performances to the table. I’m pleased with our progress, and it was better than our opening meet last year. It was a good meet and a good start, but we know what we need to do moving forward.”

Defending Big Ten champion Brandon Stryganek won the 60-meter dash with a time of 6.82, while teammate Julian Smith finished second. Junior Josh Jones won the 800-meter run. Senior Zebo Zebe placed third in his first career 400-meter dash.

Freshman David Kendziera took two event titles at the Illini Open, finishing the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.23 and winning the long jump with a mark of 6.55 meters, while teammates Smith and Branden Tanthavong rounded out the top three. Tanthavong won the triple jump with a mark of 14.63 meters. Davis Fraker won the weight throw with a mark of 18.74 meters and finished second in the shot put with a throw of 16.49 meters.

Sophomore Joe McAsey set a personal best in the 600-meter, placing first with a time of 1:19.80. He also contributed to the 4×400 relay team, which finished third, along with Zebe, Jones, and Luke Carroll.

“The highlight of the day was Joe McAsey,” Turk said in the press release. “He missed all of last year with an injury and hasn’t competed in a race in 18 months. It was a personal best for him, which is a great start. Having Joe out on the track is a really good thing to see.”

The Illini will next compete at the Illini Classic at the UI Armory on Jan. 17-18.

Thomas can be reached at [email protected]