Illinois Crowned HyVee Cup Co-Champions
April 26, 2014
DES MOINES, Iowa. -- The Illinois men's track and field concluded action at the Drake Relays on Saturday with a share of the second annual HyVee Cup. The Illini scored 34 points in five relay events to tie with No. 4 Arkansas, marking the second straight year Illinois has captured the title. The Orange & Blue finished ahead of No. 6 Georgia (21), No. 13 Baylor (15) and No. 14 Nebraska (9). The Illini also crowned an individual champion as Vanier Joseph won the 110m hurdles title for the second year in a row.
"We knew going into the meet that the competition would be better than it was last year," said head coach Mike Turk. "While we would have liked to win the HyVee Cup outright, there's no disgrace in ending up tied with the likes of Arkansas. Arkansas is one of the blue blood programs in NCAA Track and Field and are currently ranked fourth in the country. We battled in every race all weekend. It was exciting! Relay meets like this are tough. You cant rely on one or two guys to carry your team. To win the cup, you have to have quality and depth in the sprint, middle distance and distance events. Our results speak for themselves. The guys ran their hearts out."
Illinois notched a runner-up finish in the 4x400m relay, clocking a season-best time of 3:04.24, the fourth-fastest time in school history, to place second. The squad of DJ Zahn, Joe McAsey, Kenneth Allen and Stephon Pamilton currently rank first in the Big Ten and sixth in the nation. The second-place finish earned Illinois eight points towards the HyVee Cup title. The Illini also found success in the 4x100m relay, as they placed third with a season-best time of 39.51. The team of Julian Smith, Brandon Stryganek, DJ Zahn and Stephon Pamilton clocked the fastest time in the Big Ten and the ninth-fastest time in the nation to score six points towards the Cup title.
"Wow, what an effort from the 4x400m relay," said Turk. "It was a long weekend and a lot of races for all four of the guys. Zahn and Pamilton were coming off the 4x100m final with just 20 minutes of rest. The thing that made a big impression on me was the fact that each guy finished strong and closed well, especially Pamilton on the anchor. He was so determined to get everything he could. Fabulous effort! We have a very good 4x100m relay again this year. They showed up well against national level competition and we essentially finished in a dead heat with Arkansas. Zahn ran another fabulous leg on the anchor. He ran so tough all weekend, I think we'll start calling him Pacman because he was eating people up all weekend."
The Illini also scored points towards the HyVee cup in the sprint medley relay and distance medley relay, two events that the team had not yet competed in this season. The sprint medley group of Julian Smith, Brandon Stryganek, DJ Zahn and Joe McAsey placed second with a time of 3:18.38, while the distance medley relay placed third. The distance group of Graham Morris, Kenneth Allen, Zebe Zebo and Liam Markham clocked a 9:40.41, the program's fastest time in over ten years.
"The sprint medley relay is the relay that really put us in contention for the Cup today," said Turk. "Smith and Stryganek ran great on the 200m legs to give us a slight lead, then Zahn dropped a monster 400m to open up a nice lead. McAsey let it slip a little coming onto the homestretch and started his kick a little late. In the distance medley relay, Morris on the 1200m and Allen on the 400m we're real steady, and Zebe ran another good 800m leg to get Markham in a nice position. Liam really closed strong and almost got us into 2nd place."
In the 110m hurdles, Vanier Joseph clocked a time of 13.68 to win the Drake Relays title for the second straight year. The senior recorded his second-fastest time of the season and captured Illinois' 67th individual Drake Relays title with the victory. He currently ranks second in the nation in the event. Cam Viney had another strong individual performance for the Illini with a third-place finish in the 400m hurdles. The sophomore crossed the finish line with a personal-best time of 50.09, which is currently the second-fastest time in the Big Ten and fourth-fastest in the nation. The time also ranks fourth on Illinois' all-time top-10 list.
"Vanier repeated as champ and it was a tough one," said Turk. "He got out real well and then dropped back a bit mid-race. It was a furious finish with three guys at the line. One went down at the line and Vanier slipped past. Big win for Vanier over the indoor 60 hurdles national champ from Arkansas. It was the biggest win of his career."
Illinois also notched two top-10 finishes in field events. Branden Tanthavong placed seventh in the triple jump with a mark of 15.22m, his second-best mark of the season, while Brandon Noe threw a mark of 53.26m in the discus to finish ninth.
"It was a big stage for Branden Tanthavong against some of the best in the world," said Turk. "He stepped with a good performance and had a great experience. Brandon Noe looked good technically, but was a little flat physically. Still a decent result and I know there's more there."
"We felt the 4x800m would be perhaps our biggest challenge," said Turk. "Zebe got us out great, and Lee ran a personal best. Josh Jones ran a huge personal-best and his biggest race to keep us in it, and McAsey was steady on the anchor. We ran four seconds faster than we did here last year."
Next weekend, the Orange & Blue will split squads for a pair of meets. The Musco Twilight will take place in Iowa City, Iowa on Saturday, May 3, while the Payton Jordan Invite is on Sunday, May 4 in Palo Alto, Calif.
Illinois Results at the Drake Relays
Saturday, April 26
Triple Jump FINAL
High Jump FINAL
Pole Vault FINAL
Thursday, April 24