Illini men’s track and field travels to Auburn for Tiger Track Classic

By Christopher Kennedy

After a strong showing on a cold, rainy weekend in Louisville last week, the Illini men’s track and field team travels to Auburn, Ala., this weekend for the Tiger Track Classic.

“Every week in outdoor season we’re kind of holding our breath looking at the weather,” head coach Mike Turk said. “Forecast for Satuday here is 73 and sunny … that’d be perfect for us.”

Even with the conditions last weekend, the Illini came out with some impressive performances and are looking to build upon them in Auburn. One of last week’s highlights was javelin thrower Ben Dodds breaking a meet record and nearly setting a personal best.

“To be honest, it was a little bit better than I think I expected to open up, all things considered. But at the same time, it was great to start off so great,” Dodds said. “We just let some of the work we’ve put in this off-season shine through a little bit.”

The track team looks to sport a deep throwing squad this outdoor season. Dodds and fellow javelin-thrower Aaron Wilks finished one-two last weekend in Louisville, while hammer-thrower Davis Fraker is coming off a trip to indoor nationals in the hammer throw. Turk also expects big things from discus-thrower Brandon Noe, who finished seventh at Big Tens last year.

“Both myself and Aaron (Wilks) … have really high goals for ourselves this season,” Dodds said. “We both want to keep moving on up and get our names as high on that Big Ten list as we can at the end of the season.”

The Illini’s relay teams is also looking for strong performances this weekend. Last year at the same event, the 4×400 meter team won while the 4×100 meter team struggled, finishing in fourth.

“We know we’ll be tested in both our 4×100 and 4×400. Last year we came down here with high hopes of running real fast in the short relay and we ended up blowing a hand-off and not getting the stick around the track,” Turk said. “This will be an early season challenge for us … put some pressure on us.”

The 4×100 team had a great early showing to win last weekend, so it will see if it can keep up the early season progress against stronger competition this weekend.

Additionally, Turk said his 5000 meter runners, Jannis Topfer and Jordan Hebert are poised for big showings.

Unlike last week, this weekend’s meet will feature almost all of the Illini running in their main events.

“This is one of our few opportunities to run against good competition where we expect the weather to be pretty good,” Turk said. “Everybody’s doing their main thing.”

Chris can be reached at [email protected]