Illini men’s track and field dominates in Las Vegas

By Will Small

After wrapping up a promising indoor season earlier this month, the Illinois men’s track and field team kicked off its outdoor season with a dominating performance at the UNLV Spring Invitational on March 20-21.

The Illini placed first as a team at the meet, and won numerous individual events.

While the running events garnered the most attention during the indoor season, the field events stole the limelight for Illinois at UNLV.

Senior Davis Fraker continued his impressive season with a win in the hammer throw competition. His throw traveled 63.15 meters, beating the next-best competitor’s throw by more than seven meters.

In the javelin, junior Ben Dodds threw a distance of 65.03 meters to win the event. His throw was a personal best for Dodds and ranks third-best in Illinois history.

The discus was another strong field event for the Illini. Senior Brandon Noe threw 52.94 meters, the best of the day by a large margin. The next closest competitor registered a throw of only 43.87.

“I am especially pleased with our long throws crew,” head coach Mike Turk said. “Brandon was steady and consistent for the win in the discus.”

Freshman Jonathan Wells added another field event win for Illinois in the long jump, jumping 7.13 meters.

The pole vault was another successful event for the team — junior Mitch Mammoser tallied a personal best at 5.10 meters. Mammoser did not win the event, but the Illinois coaches were impressed with his performance.

The Illini runners also had a strong performance in Las Vegas. Graduate student Jannis Toepfer dominated the 5,000 meters with a time of 14 minutes and 22 seconds, besting the second-place finisher by almost 50 seconds.

Redshirt freshman Garret Lee finished second in the steeplechase at 9:46.

Turk was pleased with his team’s distance runners at the meet.

“The distance guys had tougher conditions and the competition level just wasn’t there for them,” Turk said. “Still, Jannis was dominant in winning the 5K and Garrett Lee showed some real potential in the steeple.”

Sophomore David Kendziera had the most successful track performance for the Illini. He won the 110 meter hurdles in 14.14 seconds and the 400 meter hurdles with a time of 51.61.

The 4X100 relay team of freshmen Mo Maat and Cole Henderson and seniors Brandon Stryganek and DJ Zahn won the event in convincing fashion, running it in 40.03 seconds.

“Our 4×100 relay had a good first race,” Turk said. “I know they will run a lot faster, but the exchanges were steady and that’s about all we can look for this early, especially since we ran two freshmen.”

Even though the level of competition for Illinois at the UNLV Spring Invitational was not high, Turk said he saw improvement from his team in its first outdoor meet of the season.

“It was a really nice opener to the outdoor season,” Turk said. “We got some things done, especially in the events we don’t contest indoors. It was very productive.”

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