Illinois women’s track and field finishes second at Illinois Twilight

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Illinois’ Jesica Ejesieme runs the 100 meter hurdles event during the Illinois Twilight Track and Field meet at Illinois Soccer and Track Stadium, on Saturday, April 12, 2014.

Saturday was a special day for the Illinois women’s track and field team at its Twilight Track and Field meet.

On the track, the team received several outstanding performances from some of its athletes en route to a second-place team finish out of eight total teams at the Illinois Soccer Track Stadium. 

Off the track, the team’s seniors were lauded for their contributions. This was the first senior class in four years that had the opportunity to be acknowledged at home in front of friends and family.

“It was great to see our seniors recognized,” head coach Ron Garner said. “The weather was beautiful, and we couldn’t have asked for a better day.”

Perhaps a first-place team finish could have ended the day on a more perfect note, but with four event titles and numerous performances ranking among the best in school history, the Orange and Blue had their fair share of success.

Sophomore Britten Petrey won the 3,000-meter steeplechase for the third consecutive week. She has now won the event in every meet she has participated in this outdoor season. Petrey, who clocked a personal-best time of 10 minutes, 50.41 seconds, credits her early season success to the coaching staff.

“I think the way my coach has progressed me into the drills, workouts and hurdle practices has really helped in the adjustment from the mile to the steeplechase,” Petrey said. “I know that ultimately if I want to achieve my goals it will come from pushing myself in every workout, taking my easy days as easy days, and overall just taking care of my body.”

Senior sprinter Jesica Ejesieme won the 100-meter hurdles for the second time in three tries this season. Her time of 13.40 seconds is the fastest this season in the Big Ten. Sophmore Mobolaji Adeokun finished third in the event.

Redshirt sophomore Alyssa Schneider followed up last weekend’s event title in the 1,500-meter run at Auburn, with an event title in the 5,000. 

She now holds the third- and seventh-best times in the Big Ten in each of the events, respectively.

Freshman high jumper Kandie Bloch-Jones won the high jump with her best performance of the season by far. Her jump of 5 feet, 9 3/4 inches gave the defending conference champion and second-team All-American the best mark in the Big Ten this season.

One of the strongest performances of the day belonged to junior Mariah Smith. Smith finished third in the discus, but her performance was not one to be forgotten. Her distance of 166 feet is not only the best mark in the Big Ten this season, but also the third-best throw in school history.

“Mariah really had a special day,” coach Garner said. “She has gone through her fair share of ups and downs, but I think she has learned a lot in the process.”

Though the Illini finished behind first place Indiana State, Garner was happy with the way his team performed and believes this weekend is something the team can build off of going forward.

“These early meets are developmental weeks for us,” Garner said. “We have a lot of athletes starting to perform well at the right time, but we want to make sure we stay focused now so we’re ready for the championship stages come May and June.”

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