Joe McAsey clocked the eighth-fastest time in school history to win the 600m race.
Feb. 8, 2014
LINCOLN, Neb. -- The Illinois men's track and field team competed at the Frank Sevinge Husker Invitational this weekend. The meet featured No. 9 Nebraska and No. 11 Oklahoma State, as well as Big Ten opponent Iowa. The Illini recorded 22 top-10 finishes, 16 personal-bests and three season-bests, while two Illini cracked the school's all-time top-10 list in their respective events.
"We're starting to come together," said head coach Mike Turk. "We still have a way to go and we're not quite where we want to be, but we had some breakthrough performances this weekend. We're slowly coming together as a team and the performances are getting better."
On Friday, the Illini notched three top-10 finishes in the 400m, including Stephon Pamilton placing third. The reigning Big Ten champion clocked a 47.48, a season-best time for the Illini, while D.J. Zahn (48.24) and Kenneth Allen (48.64) finished fifth and eighth, respectively. Paul Zeman ended the day's running events by placing eighth in the 5,000m run, clocking a 14:51.83. Davis Fraker competed in the only field event of the day and placed second in the weight throw with a mark of 19.68m.
"Davis Fraker was good in the weight throw," said Turk. "The performance part wasn't quite what he was looking for, but the competitiveness was great."
On Saturday, Joe McAsey won the invitational section of the 600m and clocked the eighth-fastest time in school history. His personal-best time of 1:18.28 is currently the second-fastest in the Big Ten this season. The Illini got strong performances in the invitational section of the 3,000m run as two of the top-three finishers were wearing Orange and Blue. Jannis Toepfer won the event with a time of 8:10.67, just off of his personal-best, while Jordan Hebert clocked a personal-best time of 8:14.66 to place third.
"One of the highlights of the weekend was Joe McAsey winning the 600m," said Turk. "A couple guys went down in that race and he also almost went down, but he ended up taking the lead and held on. He looked really good and really strong, and he continues to get back to where he was a couple of years ago. He might even be better now than he was a couple years ago. That's been a big boost for us. Another was Jannis Toepfer in the 3,000m. He led from wire to wire in that race and ran a great time. He looked really good and we know he's going to be ready to keep moving up."
DJ Zahn led the Illini in the 200m dash and placed eighth with a time of 21.29. The time is a personal-best for Zahn, and ranks seventh on Illinois' all-time top-10 list. Three Illini placed in the top-five of the unseeded 800m, including a first-place finish by Zebo Zebe. The senior clocked a personal-best time of 1:51.89 to win the event, while Malik Lee (1:52.33) and Josh Jones (1:52.91) finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
"DJ had a really good weekend," said Turk. "He ran great for us. The way he ran the 200m was phenomenal, then he came back and led off the 4x400m relay. He had one of those breakthrough performances that we look for. Zebo Zebe won the unseeded 800m race. He ran wire to wire and had a dominant race, and I think he would have one the invitational section as well."
Illinois recorded two top-10 finishes in the mile, including a second place finish by Luke Carroll. The sophomore clocked a season-best time of 4:06.68, while Will Brewster placed sixth with a personal-best 4:10.67. Vanier Joseph and Cam Viney qualified for the finals of the 60m hurdles and placed fifth and seventh, respectively. In the final running event of the day, the 4x400m relay squad of DJ Zahn, Zebo Zebe, Kenneth Allen and Stephon Pamilton placed second with a season-best time of 3:10.56.
The Orange and Blue also got solid performances in the field events, including three top-10 finishes in the pole vault. Cody Klein reached a season-best mark of 5.18m to place second, while Matt Bane and Blaze Galardy finished ninth and 10th, respectively. Branden Tanthavong placed seventh in the triple jump, and has placed in the top-10 at every meet he's competed in this season.
"Our pole vault crew has come around," said Turk. "We've been a little banged up there, but we're starting to peak in that event."
George Wayda placed fourth in the heptathlon and recorded personal-bests in five events. Corey Hammon competed in his first heptathlon of the season and set three personal-bests. The junior also notched first-place finishes in the shot put and 60m dash.
The Illini are back in action next weekend when they travel to Ames, Iowa for the Iowa State Classic on Feb. 14-15.
Illinois Top-10 Finishes
8. DJ Zahn, 21.29
1. Joe McAsey, 1:18.28
8. Paul Zeman, 14:51.83
4x400m Relay (Inv.)
2. Zahn, Zebe, Allen, Pamilton: 3:10.56
2. Davis Fraker, 64-7 (19.68m)
7. Branden Tanthavong, 47-4 1/2 (14.44m)
4. George Wayda, 5,064 pts