May 14, 2008
2008 Big Ten Outdoor Track & Field Championiships
Friday, May 16 - Sunday, May 18
Illinois Track Stadium, Champaign, Ill.
The Fighting Illini men's track and field team will host the 2008 Big Ten Outdoor Track & Field Championships this weekend at the Illinois Track Stadium from Friday, May 16 through Sunday, May 18. Action begins on Friday at noon with the start of the decathlon and heptathlon. Finals for the men's and women's hammer throw, men's pole vault and men's and women's 10,000m will all be held on Friday. Multi-events resume on Saturday at 9:30 a.m., while the first running event, the women's 4x100m relay trials, is slotted for 2:10 p.m. Event finals will be held for eight events on Saturday. All remaining finals will be held on Sunday, beginning with the women's triple jump at 11 a.m. The final event, the men's 4x400m relay, is scheduled for 3:45 p.m. Live results will be available at www.fightingillini.com.
The 2008 Big Ten Outdoor Track and Field Championships will be televised tape-delayed by the Big Ten Network on Thursday, May 22 at 7 p.m. CT. Brent Stover will call the action, with analysis from Illini alum Craig Virgin, Suzy Favor Hamilton and Butler By'note.
Tickets will be sold on Friday out of the ticket trailer by the Northwest entrance of Illinois Track Stadium. On Saturday and Sunday, tickets will be sold out of the baseball press box across from the Northwest entrance. All-session passes are $15 for adults and $8 for students and youth. Single-day tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students and youth.
Illinois History At The Big Ten Outdoor Championships:
Illinois has been Big Ten Outdoor Team Champions 28 times, ranking second in the conference only to Michigan's 30 titles. The most recent Illinois title came in 1994. The Illini's highest Big Ten outdoor finish under head coach Wayne Angel was in 2005, when they finished fourth.
The Illini brought home three event titiles at last year's Big Ten Outdoor Championships at Penn State, with Gakologelwang Masheto winning the 400m, Adrian Walker taking the 400m hurdles and the 4x400m relay of Walker, Trammell Smith, Paul Johnson and Masheto also winning.
Head Coach Wayne Angel On the 2008 Big Ten Outdoor Championships:
"The Big Ten Outdoor Championships is what we work toward all season, and to have the event at home gives us the opportunity to do something special. Our staff feels very confident of our athletes fitness and preparation levels, and it is now up to each individual to make it happen. If we have solid performances across the board, we should be able to finish in the top five, especially with the home meet advantage."
"We are aiming to score three athletes in the 400 meters, with All-American Gakologelwang Masheto being the favorite along with teammates Yawusa Kinda and Brandon Gray. Greg Shroka had an outstanding performance in the high jump at our last meet, and is a contender for the title if he does the same this weekend. Dominique Worsley is due to win his first Big Ten title in the 100 or 200 meters, and we hope to continue the outstanding Illinois tradition in the 4x400m relay."
Illini To Watch
Nick Brown, Jumps (Sr., Maywood, Ill.)
Brown has had a slow start this outdoor season, but is a two-time All-American and perennial threat to place high in both the long and triple jumps at the Big Ten Championships. The senior has never won a Big Ten title, but finished second in the long jump at the 2007 indoor championships and third in the long jump at last year's outdoor championships. Brown earned his All-America accolades by placing eighth in the long jump at the 2006 NCAA Indoor Championships and eighth in the triple jump at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Brandon Gray, Sprints (So., Memphis, Tenn.)
Gray broke onto the conference scene in March by placing fifth in the 400m at the Big Ten Indoor Championships, and will look to improve his placing in the event this weekend. A transfer from King College where he was a three-time NAIA All-American, Gray anchored the Illini to their fastest 4x400m relay performance of the season on April 26 at the Drake Relays (3:07.82). He is one of three Illini to post regional qualifying times in the 400m, doing so on April 30 at the Illinois Twilight (46.93).
Yawusa Kinda, Sprints (Jr., Des Moines, Iowa)
Kinda has made an immediate impact to the Illini's 400m corps after transferring from Kansas City Kansas Community College where he was a five-time NJCAA All-American. The junior has been a staple on the successful 4x400m relay all year, and is one of three Illini to post a regional qualifying time in the 400m, doing so at the Kansas Relays on April 19 (46.96). Born in Sudan, Kinda will represent his home country in the Beijing Olympics.
Gakologelwang Masheto, Sprints (Jr., Muan Botswana)
Although he has only ran one individual race this outdoor season, all eyes will be on Masheto in the 400m race. The junior has been hampered by a stress fracture in his foot since the Big Ten Indoor Championships, but is back to full strength and a favorite to defend his 400m title this weekend. In his first race this year at the Illinois Twilight, he timed a regionally-qualifying 46.61 in the 400m. Masheto won three Big Ten titles in 2007 (indoor 600m, outdoor 400m and 4x400m) and added a fourth in March by winning the indoor 400m crown. The indoor NCAA record-holder in the 500m, Masheto will represent Botswana in the Beijing Olympics this summer.
Greg Shroka, High Jump (So., Cedar Lake, Ind.)
Shroka had one of the most exciting Illinois performances of the season when he jumped 7 feet, 1/4 inches in the high jump on April 30 at the Illinois Twilight. Going into the championships, the mark is tied for first in the Big Ten and eighth in the NCAA Mideast Region. Shroka now ranks second on the all-time school performance list in the high jump, and is just the fourth Illini ever to clear over seven feet. The sophomore leads Illinois with three event titles this season.
Dominique Worsley, Sprints (So., Manchester, N.H.)
One of the top sprinters in the conference, Worsley is a threat to win his first Big Ten title in the 100m or 200m as he is ranked in the top three in both events. The sophomore did not compete at last year's outdoor championships due to injury, but had a spectacular showing in 2006, finishing second in the 100m and third in the 200m on his way to being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Worsley set a school record in the 60m in the indoor season (6.72 seconds), and is aiming to return to the NCAA Outdoor Championships after competing in the 200m in 2006.
Andrew Zollner, Pole Vault/Decathlon (Jr., Sparta, Ill.)
Zollner pole vaulted over 17 feet for the first time in his career on April 19 at the Kansas Relays, recording a mark of 17 feet, 3/4 inches. The junior is looking to score big in the event at the Big Ten Championships and for a return trip to the NCAA Outdoor Championships after qualifying in 2007. He currently ranks sixth in the pole vault in the NCAA Mideast Region and third in the Big Ten. Also a decathlete, Zollner placed sixth in the event at last year's Big Ten Outdoor Championships.
Illinois has recorded NCAA regional qualifying times in the 4x400m three times, using a combination of sophomore Brandon Gray, freshman Dan Jones, junior Yawusa Kinda, junior Gakologelwang Masheto and sophomore Gary Miller to do so. Freshman Eugene Ellis is also in the mix to make the Big Ten Championships 4x400m squad. The Illini ran a season-best time of 3:07.82 with a lineup of Kinda, Miller, Masheto and Gray that ranks second in the Big Ten and eighth in the NCAA Mideast Region. Illinois has won the 4x400m at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships in two of the last three years.
2008 Illinois Highlights:
Masheto, Kinda Headed For Olympics: Illinois will have two 400m runners represented at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in August, with junior Gakologelwang Masheto running for Botswana and junior Yawusa Kinda running for Sudan. Masheto was selected based on his career-best 400m time of 45.41 that he ran last June at the NCAA Outdoor Championships, and is expected to run both the 400m and 4x400m in Beijing. Kinda will run in Sudan's 4x400m relay.
Illinois Qualifies Eight Athletes for NCAA Regional Championships: Going into the Big Ten Championships, the Illini have qualified seven individuals and one relay for the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships set for May 30-31 in Fayetteville, Ark. Three of the individuals are 400m runners, with Gakologelwang Masheto, Brandon Gray and Yawusa Kinda all running qualifying times. Sophomore Dominique Worsley is the only Illini to qualify in multiple events, doing so in the 100m and 200m, while junior Andrew Zollner has the best regional ranking, standing sixth in the pole vault.