Jan. 8, 2009
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illinois men's track and field team will try to bring home a team title this weekend, traveling to face Iowa in a dual meet on Saturday. The Fighting Illini and Hawkeyes hope this is the start of an annual rival meet between the two schools, with a trophy being awarded to the winning team. Competition will start at noon at the University of Iowa Recreation Building.
"We started to look at the successful Ohio State-Michigan dual meet and wanted to do something similar," Illini head coach Wayne Angel said. "Dual meets are good for track and field, as everybody wants to know the final score. They went away for awhile, but we are trying to help bring them back."
Illinois will travel a squad of 26 athletes, with the majority of its top returners competing. Senior All-American Gakologelwang Masheto is scheduled to run the 800m, a change of pace from his customary 400m. He has already been named the first Big Ten Track Athlete of the Week for the 2008-09 season after taking two event titles at the Saluki Fast Start meet in December.
The Orange and Blue should be tough to beat in the middle distance events, with senior Yawusa Kinda and sophomore Dan Jones running the 400m, juniors Gary Miller and Scott Phelps entered in the 600m and junior Brian Beaird joining Masheto in the 800m.
Leading the charge and shooting for titles in the field events is sophomore Casey Fonnesbeck in the shot put, sophomore Matt McHugh in the weight throw, junior Greg Shroka in the high jump and senior Andrew Zollner in the pole vault.
"I'm looking for a strong competitive effort," Angel said. "Hopefully we go up there and win it. If it comes down to the 4x400m relay, we feel confident about our chances."
Saturday will mark the collegiate debuts for a number of Illini, including highly-touted freshmen Heindrick Maartens and Andrew Riley. Maartens, a 400m specialist from South Africa, will run the first leg of the Illinois 4x400m relay. Riley, a native of Kingston, Jamaica, is set to compete the 60m and 60m hurdles. Freshman Matt Eader, the reigning Illinois Class A high school shot put champion, will also compete.
Other Illini to watch include sophomores Josh Gist and Cody Wisslead in the 60m hurdles and Mike Murray in the mile.
Illinois is back in action next weekend at the Kentucky Invitational on Jan. 16-17.