Illinois men’s track looks to continue early season success

By Will Small

Coming off a strong performance at the Illini Classic last weekend, the Illinois men’s track and field team looks to continue the momentum at the Rod McCravy Memorial Meet in Lexington, Kentucky, on Friday and Saturday. 

“Each week we have to keep our focus and keep working hard,” head coach Mike Turk said when asked about looking ahead. “It’s about consistency right now and working hard every day.” 

The Illini are currently ranked seventh in the nation after blowout victories over Iowa and Missouri and then backing it up with a sweep at the Illini Classic. Rankings were updated weekly by Track and Field News. According to the rankings, the Big Ten is one of the premier conferences this season, garnering four of the top 10 spots.  Joining Illinois are Nebraska, Indiana and Purdue, giving the Big Ten the most teams in the top 10 out of any conference. 

The Rod McCravy Memorial is arguably one of the high-profile indoor events in the country. No. 1 Arkansas and No. 3 Texas join the seventh-ranked Illini in the competitive field. 

Freshman Jonathan Wells currently ranks fourth in the nation in the high jump with a jump of 7 feet, 2.5 inches. Wells tied the Illinois record last week at the Illini Classic. 

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One of Illinois’ top runners is senior Brandon Stryganek. Stryganek won the 200 meters last weekend and ranks ninth in the nation in the event. 

Another high-ranked Illini runner is junior Cam Viney, who ran the season’s seventh-best time in the country in the 60 meter hurdles in the Illini Classic. 

Early in the season it has been a combination of freshmen, like Wells, and upperclassmen, Stryganek and Viney, who have propelled the Illini to their hot start.

“All of us did pretty well, especially the younger guys like Jonathan Wells, Cole Henderson, Molefi Maat, getting their feet wet early in the season,” Stryganek said after the Illini Classic this weekend.

Stryganek added that Illinois is showing a lot of early season promise, and Turk said he is excited for the Rod McCravy Memorial this weekend. 

“I have a lot of confidence in the leadership of this team that they’ll come back and keep working hard next week,” Turk said.

Will can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter