May 6, 2009
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini celebrated the 2008-09 men's track and field and cross country seasons with their team banquet on Tuesday at the Champaign Country Club. The evening featured a speech by former Illini great Rob Mango, a four-time All-American and NCAA champion from 1970-73.
The seven outgoing Illinois seniors - Yawusa Kinda, Travis Leonard, Tim Maier, Alberto Mendez, Gakologelwang Masheto, Garrett Weaver and Andrew Zollner - were acknowledged for their dedication to the track and field and cross country programs during their time competing for the Orange and Blue.
Team awards were also given out by head coach Wayne Angel and assistant coaches Wendel McRraven and Mike Turk. Masheto took home top honors as Overall Team MVP. The Botswana native has earned two All-America honors, won five Big Ten titles and broke three school records in three seasons at Illinois. Freshman Andrew Riley was named Overall Outstanding Newcomer for his performance in the hurdling events. Riley has had a standout debut season at Illinois, earning All-America honors at the NCAA Indoor Championships, being named Big Ten Indoor Freshman of the Year, winning the Big Ten 60m hurdles title and breaking two Illinois school records.
Junior Gary Miller was named Most Valuable Sprinter, as the Big Ten 600m champion and a key part of the Illini 4x400m relay. Sophomore Cody Wisslead earned the Most Improved Sprinter award after continually dropping his times throughout the season and qualifying for the NCAA regional championships in both the 110m and 400m hurdles.
Junior and team captain Greg Shroka was chosen as the Most Valuable Field Events Athlete, as he worked hard to get back from injuries to score in the high jump at the Big Ten Indoor Championships and then qualified for the regional championships in the high jump during the outdoor season. Junior Azeez Shogbuyi earned the Most Improved Field Events Athlete award as one of the Illini's top performers in the long jump this season.
Leading the Illini distance corps, junior Jacob Nachel was named both Most Valuable Distance Runner and Most Improved Distance Runner. Nachel is Illinois' top performer in the 5,000m during both the indoor and outdoor seasons, scoring in the event at the Big Ten Indoor Championships. Junior Jeremy Stevens took home the Most Valuable Cross Country Runner award, as the team leader and top performer throughout the season. Freshman Colin Mickow was Cross Country Outstanding Newcomer for being a major contributor for the Illini at the conference and regional championships.
Illinois next competes at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships on Friday, May 15 through Sunday, May 17 at Ohio State.