Illinois women’s track and field make strides at Drake Relays


Illinois’ Stephanie Richartz releases the pole as she lifts past the bar to break her previous record with a height of 4.38 meters.

By Zoe Kaler

The Illinois women’s track and field team placed 11th this weekend at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, improving on its 17th place finish a year ago. 

Arkansas, ranked fifth in the NCAA, took home first place. Ohio State came in second. Purdue and No. 11 Oklahoma State tied for third.

Senior Stephanie Richartz took home the gold in pole vault, clearing 4.30 meters.

This was the her fourth time competing at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, and was her best performance ever at the competition.  

“Going into the Drake Relays, I was prepared for the worst and determined not to let any obstacles I could not control get in the way,” Richartz said. 

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    Junior Jennifer DeBellis finished ninth in the pole vault, clearing 4.05 meters.

    Illinois had fifth-place finishes in the distance medley relay and the 4×800 meter relay. The 4×800 team’s time was the second-fastest in Illinois history. 

    “Relays are the centerpiece of the meet,” said assistant coach Scott James.

    High-placing relay teams are awarded points toward the Hy-Vee Cup. The distance medley relay and the 4×800 team scored four points toward the cup.

    The distance medley relay team of freshman Nicole Choquette, sophomore Samone Thompson, and seniors Amanda Duvendack and Alyssa Schneider ran a time of 11 minutes 23.97 seconds and the 4×800 team of Choquette, Duvendack, sophomore Lindsey Rakosnik and senior Chloe Schmidt ran a 8:38.76, the second-fastest time in school history. 

    Schneider, freshman Hanna Winter, senior Emma Grimes and freshman Denise Branch ran the 4×1600 meter relay (19:51.60) and redshirt junior Kymbriona Taylor, Thompson, freshman Jasmine Berry and Rakosnik finished the sprint medley relay in 4:00.89.

    The 4×1600 team finished eighth and the sprint medley relay finished 15th.

    Senior Mariah Smith threw 48.16 meters to come in eighth in the discus and junior Jazjuan Wallace-Sipp threw 46.73 meters to place 10th.

    In the 100-meter hurdles, Breeana Coleman finished 12th (14.11) and sophomore Kandie Bloch-Jones cleared 1.68 meters to finish ninth in the high jump.

    Distance coach Scott Jones said the meet was a great experience, and a good way to see how Illinois measures up to some of the best teams in the country.

    “Drake Relays are one of those meets we circle at the beginning of the year,” Jones said.

    The weekend’s rainy conditions caused the meet to move indoors. 

    Up next, Illinois heads to the Bill Hayes Invite on May 2 in Bloomington, Indiana.

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