Six Illini finish in top 10 at Rod McCravy Memorial Meet

At an event filled with high-quality opponents, six different Illini finish in the top-10 in six different events at the Rod McCravy Memorial Meet in Lexington, Kentucky, over the weekend.

Senior Breeana Coleman finished sixth in the 60-meter hurdles, sophomore Nicole Choquette finished seventh in the 800 meters, senior Alyssa Schneider finished eighth in the 3,000 meters, sophomore Kandie Bloch-Jones finished eighth in the high jump and the senior-junior tandem of Stephanie Richartz and Jennifer DeBellis finished fifth and eighth, respectively, in the pole vault.

The Illini beat athletes from eight teams ranked in the top 25: No. 1 Florida, No. 3 Oregon, No. 4 Georgia, No. 5 Texas, host No. 6 Kentucky, No. 7 Arkansas, No. 9 Florida State and No. 24 Missouri. Team scores were not tallied for the meet.

Senior Richartz broke the indoor school record in the pole vault, finishing with a final height of 4.33 meters. Her fifth-place finish was the best across all events for Illinois.

“I’m excited to have broken the school record, especially so early in the season,” Richartz said. “That mark will also most likely make it to indoor nationals, which will give me another opportunity to jump high among great competition and put myself in the mix of becoming an All-American once again.”

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Richartz was sidelined due to an injury for all of last season, only to come back and break the indoor school record in just her second meet this season.

Richartz said her injury gave her time to think about not taking anything for granted, especially health.

“As an athlete, it’s easy to take something as simple as good health for granted,” Richartz said. “However, facing adversity has made me truly appreciate not only the success that I have already had in my career but the wonderful support system of people I have in my life. These people have been pushing me to come back this season stronger than I have ever been before.”

Richartz competed against 27 other athletes and fell only behind two unattached vaulters and two vaulters from seventh-ranked Arkansas.

With the amount of quality teams involved, Schneider pointed out the Illini were forced to perform well.

“Racing against better competition forces us to race at a higher level,” Schneider said. “Any chance we get to challenge ourselves against some of the better athletes in the country is a great opportunity.”

Distance coach Scott Jones added that competing in such a tough meet early on can carry over toward the rest of the season, especially going into the Big Ten Indoor Championships.

“Being in that environment and competing well really gives people confidence and outsiders saw the things from Illinois’ track program here this weekend,” Jones said.

The Illini were one of only two Big Ten teams at the meet this weekend, the other being Ohio State.

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