Illini men’s track prepares for Indiana Relays

By Thomas Donley

This weekend, the No. 18 Illinois men’s track and field team will face much easier competition than last weekend as it travels to Bloomington, Ind., for the Indiana Relays.

Despite a successful two days at the USTFCCCA’s Meet of the Week at Kentucky’s Rod McCravy Memorial Invitational against tough competition, the drop-off in the level of competition will not have any effect on the way the Illini prepare or compete.

“Our mind set is to get better every day,” junior sprinter Brandon Stryganek said. “We’ll just take the race plan how coach planned it out.”

While the 50-team field at the Indiana Relays will feature Big Ten rivals Indiana and Ohio State, as well as No. 17 Alabama, the Illini will also toe the starting line with runners from Division II, Division III and NAIA schools. Several non-university-affiliated track clubs, such as Human Motor Works T.C., and Nexus Track Club, will also compete.

Illinois head coach Mike Turk said the competition is not the only important aspect of this weekend’s meet.

One such aspect is that of Indiana’s banked track. The Indiana Relays will be the first meet this season in which Illinois will race on a track that is raised from the outside on the curves in order to reduce the outward pull runners experience on a 200-meter indoor track. Turk stated that running on Indiana’s banked track will help prepare the Illini for a bigger meet at Nebraska, which also has a banked track.

Another aspect Turk feels will benefit his athletes is the environment because of the larger number of athletes competing in the 50-team field at the Indiana Relays.

“The warm-up area will be hectic,” Turk said. “And that’s good training for them because at a lot of the big meets we go to, that’s kind of the way it is. Limited space, a lot of people and learning how to navigate through that is all part of that process.”

Turk said Illinois has had a good week of practice in preparation for the Indiana Relays, a sentiment shared by Stryganek.

“The coaches have me prepared all week long, all year long, so I’m ready,” Stryganek said.

Thomas can be reached at [email protected]