Illinois men’s track and field takes first at Illini Classic

By Thomas Donley

On what head coach Mike Turk called “an outstanding day,” the Illinois men’s track and field team took first place over the seven-team field at the Illini Classic, scoring 227.5 points, 125 points better than second-place Memphis. 

Seven Illini claimed event titles Saturday, and 13 others finished within the top-three in their respective events.

“The thing that was really encouraging were the performances we had without three of our big scorers,” Turk said in a press release. “Matt Bane, Vanier Joseph and Stephon Pamilton are all Big Ten champions, but we held them out today. To see us come through with the performances we had and to see some young guys really step up was a great thing.”

For the second time in as many weeks, freshman David Kendziera won the 60-meter hurdles, setting a personal best of 8.04 seconds, .01 seconds away from the top 10 in school history. Teammate Cam Viney finished second with a time of 8.06 in his season debut.

Illinois swept the top three in the 60 meters, as Brandon Stryganek, the defending Big Ten champion, took first for the second straight week. Darius Thomas finished second, and DJ Zahn took third. Stryganek also took first in the 200 meters, while Zahn finished third.

“Brandon was really good today,” Turk said. “The times he recorded in both the (60) and (200) were great for him this early in the season. He’s never run that fast this early. DJ Zahn really showed that he’s getting himself back in shape, and it was great to have Cam Viney back this week.”

Zahn finished the 400 meters with a time of 48.99 to take first in the event, with freshman Kenneth Allen placing second in his first career collegiate race at that distance. Zebo Zebe finished third in the 600, and Joe McAsey took second in the 800.

Liam Markham took second in the mile in his season debut, while Luke Carroll took third. Illinois also claimed two of the top three spots in the 3,000, with Jordan Hebert knocking 10 seconds off of his personal best to finish second, while Jannis Toepfer took third. Kendziera, Viney, Zebe and Josh Jones combined to take second in the 4×400.   

The Illini enjoyed continued success in the field events at the Illini Classic, taking home three event titles for the second week in a row. Davis Fraker won the weight throw with a distance of 20.54m. Kendziera won the high jump with a personal-best 6.87 meters, while Branden Tanthavong took first in the triple jump.

Thomas can be reached at [email protected]