March 1, 2009
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - The Illinois men's track and field team had an exceptional day to close out the Big Ten Indoor Championships, with three Illini bringing home individual titles as event champions. Senior Gakologelwang Masheto (400m), junior Gary Miller and freshman Andrew Riley (60m hurdles) all posted first-place finishes, leading the Orange and Blue on Sunday at Penn State's Ashenfelter Multi-Sport Facility.
The Illini finished the meet in seventh place with 55 points after scoring just two points on Saturday. Minnesota handily won the team title for the first time since 1998 with five individual champions, scoring 135 points. Michigan was second with 93 points, while host Penn State rounded out the top three (78).
"We had a much better day today," Illini head coach Wayne Angel said. "We were on a roll with a school record, three Big Ten champions and a number of guys having personal-best performances. We just ran out of bullets. It was unfortunate we didn't place higher as a team, but we saw a lot of great things. I'm looking forward to taking a strong group to nationals in a few weeks."
For the Orange and Blue, Riley's title was the most impressive as he shattered the 60m hurdles school record in the process. The freshman from Kingston, Jamaica timed 7.72 in the final to take first and become Illinois' all-time top performer in the event. The previous school record was 7.82 set by Sherman Armstrong in 2000. Already a provisional qualifier in the hurdles for the NCAA Indoor Championships, Riley should move up significantly on the national performance list as he was just 0.02 seconds short of automatically qualifying for NCAAs. Michigan State's Shane Wells finished second in the hurdles (7.88).
Masheto won his fifth career Big Ten title on Sunday, taking the 400m crown in a season-best time of 46.67. The senior has been dominant in the event since joining the Illini in 2007, winning three 400m conference titles (two indoor, one outdoor). He defeated Ohio State freshman Thomas Murdaugh in the final, who finished runner-up with a time of 46.80. Masheto is also in solid positioning for the NCAA Championships, as he came into Big Ten's ranked 14th in the county in the 400m and improved his season-best time by 0.2 seconds. The Botswana native also scored points for the Illini in the 200m, with a career-best time of 21.36 to finish fourth.
Junior Gary Miller was Big Ten champion in the 600m, taking first by 0.01 seconds.
Miller's 600m race was the closest to call of the meet. The junior from Philadelphia timed 1:17.64 in the final, edging out Penn State's Lionel Williams by 0.01 seconds to become Big Ten champion. Miller has been one of the Illini's most consistent performers all season, winning a total of six individual titles and also competing on the 4x400m relay.
The Illini 4x400m relay closed out the championships by placing second, with sophomore Cody Wisslead stepping in to run in place of Hendrik Maartens. The foursome of sophomore Dan Jones, Masheto, Wisslead and Miller finished runner-up in a time of 3:11.15. Ohio State cruised to the title, running 3:08.73.
Junior Greg Shroka was the only Illini to score points in the field events, coming up big to take fifth in the high jump. Shroka has been hampered by injuries during the indoor season, and hadn't competed since Illinois' opening meet against Iowa on Jan. 10. He tied his indoor personal best in the high jump with a leap of 6-10 ¾, scoring the first points for the Illini of the day.
In the 5,000m, junior Jacob Nachel had a personal-best performance of 14:11.31 to place sixth. Jones also recorded a sixth-place finish with a personal-best time, running 48.23 in the 400m final to pick up another three points for the Illinois team total. Freshman Earnest Green just missed the scoring column in the triple jump, leaping 47-2 ½ to place ninth.
This weekend, a few Illini will travel to either Notre Dame's Alex Wilson Invitational or Iowa State's NCAA Qualifier from March 6-7 in hopes of qualifying for the NCAA Indoor Championships from March 13-14.
Illinois Sunday Results at the Big Ten Indoor Championships
4. Gakologelwang Masheto 21.36; 5 team points
1. Gary Miller 1:17.64; 10 team points
6. Jacob Nachel 14:11.31; 3 team points
60m Hurdles (FINAL)
1. Andrew Riley 7.72; 10 team points
Triple Jump (FINAL)
9. Earnest Green 47-2 ½ (14.39m)
Weight Throw (FINAL)
17. Casey Fonnesbeck 57-7 ½ (17.56m)
17. Shawn Ledbetter 4,473 points
Big Ten Men's Indoor Championships Final Team Standings
1. Minnesota 135
2. Michigan 93
3. Penn State 78
4. Ohio State 77.5
5. Wisconsin 69
6. Indiana 61
7. ILLINOIS 55
8. Michigan State 49
9. Iowa 43
10. Purdue 41.5