Illini Finish Fourth at Big Ten Indoor Championships
March 1, 2014
GENEVA, Ohio -- The Illinois men's track and field team finished fourth at the 2014 Big Ten Indoor Championships, totaling 71.5 points. Illinois crowned one conference champion, while two others finished runner-up on the second and final day of the event. The Orange and Blue also recorded marks that rank among the top in program history, including a school-record breaking performance in the weight throw.
"I'm really proud of our team and the way they fought for everything they could," said head coach Mike Turk. "The Big Ten is a really tough conference and we've become a relevant part of that in the past two years. We fell short of or goal of winning a title, but we've showed ourselves that we're capable of continuing to compete for championships season after season. This team has great heart."
The Illini finished one-two in the 400m, with Stephon Pamilton successfully defending his conference title. The senior clocked a season-best time of 46.38 en route to his second straight 400m indoor title, while DJ Zahn ran a personal-best time of 46.67, the sixth-fastest time in school history, to place second. Pamilton and Zahn also scored points for the Orange & Blue in the 200m, as Pamiltonclocked a season-best time of 21.19 to place fifth while DJ Zahn finished seventh. BrandonStryganek also competed in the 200m and placed sixth with a season-best time of 21.21.
"Our sprint crew was fabulous all weekend and they were led by the 400 with Stephon and DJ," said Turk. "The performance of those two guys was terrific. Stephon has had a bit of a struggle this indoor season, but he got himself ready and stepped up big once again. DJ is probably the most improved athlete on our team and the contributions he's made this year are huge."
Joe McAsey recorded a runner-up finish in the 600m, finishing with a personal-best time of 1:17.27, the fourth-fastest time in school history. Zebo Zebe also scored for the Illini in the event with an eighth-place finish. Liam Markham represented Illinois in the mile and scored four team points with a fifth-place finish. The Illini scored points in the 5,000m for the first time since 2009 as Jannis Toepfer took sixth with a time of 14:00.66, the third-fastest in school history.
"Our distance crew has come a long way in the last two years," said Turk. "We've gone from not having anybody in the finals to having people that are not only scoring for us, but competing for championships. It's a thrill to watch Joey run knowing the injuries he went through last year. To see senior Zebo come through and make a final and lay it all out there to score for the team is very rewarding. Liam was a warrior for or middle distance crew this weekend. Coming off a wonderful anchor leg in the DMR and right back into the mile final today, we couldn't have asked for more. Jannis was the first guy to score in 5,000m in many years with a personal best performance."
Vanier Joseph tied his season-best time of 7.76 en route to a third-place finish in the 60m hurdles, while Cam Viney also tied his season-best time (7.93) to place seventh. In the 60m dash, last year's conference champion Brandon Stryganek finished fifth with a season-best time of 6.73, while Julian Smith clocked a season-best time of 6.87 to place seventh.
"Brandon is a little disappointed with his performance, but he's a glue for our team and holds us together," said Turk. "He's a big performer. Julian Smith is another senior that stepped up to score some points that may not have been expected, and that was huge. Vanier has shown that he's become a stabilizing influence on our program and ran a great race."
Davis Fraker reset the school record in the weight throw, placing sixth with a mark of 20.99m, while the 4x400m relay team placed third with a time of 3:08.06, the fifth-fastest time in school history.
"The weight throw in the Big Ten might be the single best event in the entire country," said Turk. "His performance was outstanding and a performance that will get him into the NCAA Championships. The 4x400m relay really showed a lot of character. Kenneth stepped in and really brought a lot of energy and ran his best race of the season. Being a freshman, he's the next man up for us in the sprint crew so that was a great thing to see."
Final Big Ten Team Standings
Illinois Saturday Results at 2014 Big Ten Indoor Championships