Illini men’s track and field team opens outdoor season at Louisville

By Christopher Kennedy

The first outdoor meet of the season presented a stark difference from running indoors. Conditions were cold, wet and windy, yet the Illini were still able to score eight event titles.

“We had very adverse conditions to say the least with the weather,” head coach Mike Turk said. “We really felt like it was important for us to get the guys out there and have them put forth some competitive effort.”

Sprinter Brandon Stryganek won the 100-meter dash and was a part of the first place 4×100-meter relay team.

“Overall, I had a good day, so did the rest of the team,” Stryganek said. “We all know the conditions are alike and we all run in them. We know they’re not ideal. We talk about going out there and competing … if you put forth the effort then the times will come.”

In the 100 meters, Stryganek was followed by DJ Zahn, Stephon Pamilton and Julian Smith in 3rd, 4th and 5th place, respectively. The three sprinters also joined Stryganek on the 4×100 meter relay team.

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The relay team’s early success was noted by both Stryganek and Turk.

“We’re right where we need to be,” Stryganek said. “Last year we didn’t get the stick around quite this early, but I feel like now is a good headway.”

“Watching our 4×100 meter relay … make safe passes and really dominate that little competition was great to see,” Turk said. “Last year it took us most of the outdoor season before we got our relay put together.”

The Illini also took event titles in the two hurdle events of the day. Vanier Joseph, coming off an appearance at the NCAA Indoor Championships, was first in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 13.98 seconds, a new meet record. His teammate, Cam Viney, edged out a narrow victory in the 400-meter hurdles, clocking a 52.32 to win by .02 seconds.

The distance squad scored points for the team as well. Joe McCasey, second in the 600 meters at Indoor Big Tens, won the 800 meter run. Graham Morris made his first race of the season count for the Illini, finishing 3 minutes, 53.66 seconds in the 1500 meter run to win by less than a second over teammate Garrett Lee.

On the field side, Ben Dodds had a memorable first javelin throw of the season, breaking the meet record by more than 2 meters with a throw of 61.75.

“Ben Dodds in the javelin was really outstanding … just short of his all-time personal best. That was really a great opener to his season,” Turk said.

Triple jumper Branden Tanthavong also turned in a very strong performance to win the event with a jump of 14.96 meters.

Turk thought the meet was “a much better start (to the outdoor season) than we’ve had the last couple years.”

“Some of the distances and times aren’t as good on paper as I know we would be with better weather. Just knowing that we’re prepared and putting forth a competitive effort, that’s the really important thing.”

Chris can be reached at [email protected]