Illini women’s track cruises to a win at Illini Open

By Alex Wallner

The Illinois women’s track and field team started the indoor season well in its first two meets of the season over winter break.

The Illini began the indoor season in Iowa City, Iowa, for a dual match against host Iowa and Missouri. The Illini fell to the Hawkeyes 73-64, but bounced back to beat the Tigers 84-53.

The team then returned home to host the Illini Classic on Saturday, a meet it has hosted for the last five years and a meet in which they have come out victorious in four of those five.

The Illini had little trouble in the meet, as they cruised to a 42-point win over Northern Illinois, who finished second, and a 60-point win over Eastern Illinois, who finished in third place.

Illinois also had six individuals finish atop the leaderboard in six different events: Sophomore Nicole Choquette in the 400-meter dash, sophomore Lindsey Rakosnik in the 600-meter dash, junior Britten Petrey in the 800-meter run, senior Alyssa Schneider in the 1-mile run, Breeana Coleman in the 60-meter hurdles and Stephanie Richartz in the pole vault.

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    Two weekends into the season, the Illini have a 2-1 record, and head coach Ron Garner believed his team had a much better effort in the second week.

    “We came in and got a lot of quality work,” Garner said in a press release. “We had a better effort as a team this week. We had a good meet last week, but we saw across the board kids come out and compete and improve.”

    Richartz’s story is one that is impressive. Coming off an injury that took away her entire junior season, Richartz came back and won her lone event in the Illini Classic. In her first competition in two years, she beat teammate Jennifer DeBellis by two points and Hannah Ciasto-Poor of Ball State by four points.

    “I’ve been working hard this fall and have had a lot of attention with physical therapy and rehab, so they’re definitely taking good care of me,” Richartz said.

    With the tough Rod McCravy Memorial meet this week, it will be a good test to see how good this team is.

    Last year’s meet saw nine Illini break personal records in their events and is something that Schneider hopes to do again this year.

    “I would like to PR (personal record) in the 3K, and it will be good for us to get a DMR (distance medal relay) going to start the season,” Schneider said.

    With a tougher test ahead of them, a good week of practice could help the Illini compete well this weekend.

    “We practice like we compete, and we compete like we practice,” Richartz said. “That’s kind of our motto, especially as pole vaulters. So I look forward to the competition because it gets a little extra fire under my belly when I have some other great jumpers around me as well.”

    With a tough weekend approaching, it was important for the Illini to perform well on their home turf, no matter how difficult or easy it was.

    Alex can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @AWallner93.