Illini men’s track and field freshman highlight Orange and Blue Open


Illinois’ Matsen Dziedzic winds up for the throw during the weight throw event at the Orange and Blue meet on Saturday

By Will Small

For many of the Illini freshmen, the Orange and Blue Open at the Armory was their first taste of collegiate competition. Ahead of the Big Ten Indoor Championships, many of the Illinois men’s track and field team’s top athletes took this past weekend off to rest.

No. 23 Illinois narrowly outscored the Illinois State Redbirds 178-163. Valparaiso and Bradley finished with 70 and 40 points, respectively.

“I’m really pleased with our overall performances,” head coach Mike Turk said. “In a meet where we’re sitting a lot of our top performers so they can get ready for Big Tens, it creates a lot of opportunities for our younger guys.”

Illinois had a number of underclassmen produce strong results, and Turk knows that this meet is going to be an important part in the development for the blossoming Illini.

Jonathan Wells won the high jump competition in what is shaping up to be a great season for the freshman. Wells has jumped the second-best height of the season in the Big Ten. This weekend he will have an opportunity to go head-to-head against White at the Big Ten Indoor Championships.

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The weight throw was another event that showcased Illini youth. Freshmen Matsen Dziedzic and Michael Hyc garnered two of the top three in the event. Dziedzic finished second, throwing a distance of 17.50 meters, while Hyc placed third throwing 17.18 meters, in what were new personal bests for both athletes.

Another promising freshman for Illinois is Garrett Lee, who won the 800 meters with a time of 1 minute, 55.91 seconds. With the Illini standout Joe McAsey taking the weekend off from competition, Lee took advantage of the opportunity.

In the 3,000 meters, redshirt sophomore Will Brewster captured the win with a time of 8:23.71 and senior Brendan McDonnell finished just behind at 8:29.01.

But it wasn’t just underclassmen who played a role in Illinois’ win. Senior Corey Hammon placed first in the 60-meter hurdles, posting a time of 8.43 seconds. Also in the event, freshman Parker Deloye finished fourth at 8.85, a new personal record.

In one of the most exciting events of the day, senior Maurice Watkins finished third in the 60-meter dash in a photo finish. Watkins and Illinois State’s Clay Raimon and Nathan Schreiber all crossed the finish line at the same time, prompting officials to take the times down to thousandths of a second. All three posted times of 7.01 seconds, but after further examination, Watkins was awarded third.

Matthew Bane and Mitch Mammoser finished second and third, respectively, with a clearance of 5.03 meter each in the pole vault. The jump is a new personal best for Mammoser, who is feeling comfortable with his performances going into the Big Ten meet.

“As far as being consistent, I’m right there,” Mammoser said after the meet. “I have a lot of height, and I’m happy with how I’m jumping.”

Illinois also sent a distance medley relay team to the Alex Wilson Invite at Notre Dame over the weekend. The team consisted of senior Bryce Basting, junior Liam Markham, senior DJ Zahn and junior Joe McAsey. The group finished sixth overall with a time of 9:33.28, which is also the second-fastest time in school history.

The Illini will have a quick turnaround as they prepare for the Big Ten Indoor Championships this weekend. But Mammoser and his team think they are up for the challenge.

“We’re sitting really well going into Big Tens,” Mammoser said. “Overall, everyone is feeling really well going into the meet.”

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