Illinois men’s track and field finishes 2nd at Big Ten Indoor Championships

By Will Small

As Nebraska celebrated its first Big Ten Indoor Championship on Saturday, the Illinois men’s track and field team was in a familiar position: second place.

For the second time in three indoor seasons, Illinois was presented the runner-up trophy — it was the eighth time since 1989 that the Illini finished in second place.

Illinois captured three individual titles over the two-day competition at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio, but those weren’t enough. Nebraska tallied 127 points, Illinois had 86 and Minnesota rounded out the top three with 76.

“We fought really hard and gave it everything we had but it wasn’t quite enough,” head coach Mike Turk said. “We are disappointed with a second-place finish. We worked for something a little bit better, and it just didn’t happen. I’m proud of the way the team competed. They laid it all out there.”

The highlight of the weekend was senior DJ Zahn, who won three events in his final Big Ten indoor meet. The 200 meters, 400 meters and 4×400 meter relay were the only events that he competed in, giving Zahn first-place finishes in every race he entered.

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In the preliminary round of the 200 meters, Zahn broke the Illinois school record with a time of 20.87 seconds, but his mark wouldn’t last for long. In the event finals, Zahn ran 20.75, another new Illini best.

The 400 meters was another record-shattering event for Zahn. His time of 45.63 beat the previous Illini best set in 2009.

But Zahn wasn’t done yet. The 4×400 relay team of sophomores David Kendziera and Kenneth Allen, redshirt junior Joe McAsey and Zahn finished at the top with a time of 3:07.02. According to Turk, this was Zahn’s most impressive performance of the weekend.

“DJ has gone to another level. He ran three school records this weekend and a couple of them are pretty old,” Turk said. “That 4×400 meter anchor leg he ran and the pass he made on the turn was just sheer will. That was just a beast of a run for him.”

There were a handful of notable individual performances beyond the Illini’s three event titles.

Jonathan Wells continued his strong freshman campaign, finishing fourth in the high jump. Senior Davis Fraker finished third in the weight throw — he threw a distance of 22.50 meters, breaking his school record from earlier this season.

“Davis was huge getting third in the weight throw,” Turk said. “He broke the school record with a huge throw. It was a really satisfying performance to see from a senior.”

Even though Wells and Fraker did not win their respective events, their strong finishes helped the Illini contend for the Big Ten title, something the team had its sights set on all season. While Illinois ultimately came up short against Nebraska, Turk said it was a great weekend for his guys.

“I’m proud of the way the team competed,” Turk said. “They laid it all out there.”

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