Illini gear up for Big Ten Indoor Championships

The Illinois women’s track and field team will travel to Geneva, Ohio, on Friday to compete in the Big Ten Indoor Championships.

After a dominating performance in their last outing at the Orange and Blue Open, the Illini will look to ride their momentum and be one of the final teams vying for a conference championship Sunday afternoon.

“We’ll be proud if we give our best, but we won’t be satisfied,” head coach Ron Garner said. “We believe the University of Illinois is a championship program and that’s what we will continue to expect.”

Last weekend, in their final home meet, the Orange and Blue showed some of this championship promise. With nine event titles and 11 personal bests, the Illini showed they can be a serious title contender.

“Our philosophy has been to develop our athletes to be champions,” Garner said. “If we prepare each individual to perform their best, then they’ll be ready when it counts.”

After winning the Big Ten Indoor Championship meet last year, the Illini will have their plate full when trying to repeat this weekend. Garner said the team will be missing approximately 90 points from last year’s squad, which scored 115 points at the meet. Illinois will depend heavily on its stars and hope to receive some surprise performances as well.

Freshman high jumper Kandie Bloch-Jones will be an athlete to look out for as she makes her conference championship debut. Bloch-Jones, who holds the top mark in the Big Ten coming into this weekend, hopes to the put the finishing touches on what already has been an impressive indoor campaign.

Distance runners Amanda Duvendack and Alyssa Schneider will look to compete for medals in their respective events. Duvendack, a senior running the 800 meters, has been consistently strong to this point and should be in the battle for an event title. While Schneider, the owner of several record-setting performances already this season, figures to be in the mix for the mile.

One athlete that has flown under the radar but is primed for a strong performance this weekend is junior sprinter Asia Thomas. Thomas has gotten hot at just the right time. Last weekend at the Orange and Blue Open, Thomas won the 400 and recorded a season-best time of 54.25 seconds. Thomas went from being ranked No. 16 in the Big Ten to No. 4. The strong time will put her in a competitive start position this weekend as she hopes to contend for a medal.

Garner and his staff are no strangers to success. After winning this meet last year, they know how to prepare their athletes for high-pressure situations. Garner said as long as the team does what it has all year, everything else should fall into place.

“We’ve worked hard to hold everyone accountable for their individual effort each attempt, each event, and each meet,” Garner said. “If our athletes do the work, work intelligently hard,  and prepare to be their best, then when it counts, they will trust themselves, their teammates, and the coaching staff to allow it to happen.”

Mubarak can be reached at [email protected] and @justmubar.