Illinois Finishes Runner-Up at Big Ten Outdoor Championships
May 18, 2014
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Fighting Illini men's track and field team placed second at the 2014 Big Ten Outdoor Championships. The Orange and Blue totaled 109 points to record the highest team finish since 1994. Three Illini were crowned conference champions, as Stephon Pamilton and Vanier Joseph successfully defended their titles, while Joe McAsey captured his first Big Ten title.
"I'm really proud of these guys," said head coach Mike Turk. "We faced a lot of adversity, and we had some problems with travel plans and hotels. These guys just took all that in stride, which is really difficult to do coming off of final exams, and really put together a great team performance. It's hard when after two days of competition you're sitting in last place with 12 points, even though you have a lot of qualifiers and good things coming, it's hard for a team to believe and stick with it but we did that. We showed a lot of resiliency and resolve to follow through with what our mission was and we came really close."
The Illini finished one-two in the 400m, with Stephon Pamilton winning his second straight outdoor 400m conference title. The senior clocked a personal-best time of 45.91, the sixth-fastest time in school history, to capture his fourth overall Big Ten title in the event. DJ Zahn finished just behind Pamilton, placing second with a personal-best time of 45.92, the seventh-fastest time in school history. Pamilton also added six more points to the team's total with a third-place finish in the 200m. Vanier Joseph successfully defended his 110m hurdles title and remains undefeated in the event this season. The senior clocked a time of 13.68, his second-fastest time of the season, to claim his second straight conference title in the event. The third event title of the day came from Joe McAsey in the 800m. The indoor runner-up clocked a personal-best time of 1:47.73, the ninth-fastest time in school history, to win his first conference title.
"Stephon Pamilton was just amazing," said Turk. "The will power that he has to compete and not accept mediocrity and to push himself is terrific. It was great that he broke 46 seconds and won the 400m, but it's even more amazing what he did in the 200m. He was dehydrated and on the table in the tent and we weren't sure he was going to answer the bell for the 200m, so for him to come out and get third place out of lane one is just unbelievable. In the 110m hurdles, Vanier Joseph gave a great veteran performance. He ran with a lot of confidence. It was a great hurdles field and for him to take control after a shaky race in yesterday's prelims was really clutch. When you have a champion and leader like that it rubs off on other people, and I know that helped bring David Kendziera around. I couldn't ever skip over Joe McAsey in the 800m. He's coming off of over a year of inactivity with stress fractures, so for him go through the pain of rehab and come back and dominate against some really good runners is just fantastic. Knowing that he's going to be back for a couple more years is very comforting."
Cam Viney had a great day in the 400m hurdles, finishing runner-up to add eight points to Illinois' overall team score. The sophomore competed against many of the top hurdlers in the nation and clocked a time of 50.99 to improve upon last year's ninth-place finish.
"It was a great day for Cam," said Turk. "He really bounced back since he didn't have a great day yesterday with not making the 110m hurdles final. Those guys that he ran against are national level guys, and there were five guys in the top-15 of the NCAA in that race. I'm looking forward to see what Cam does going into the NCAA rounds. He's got a chance to make that NCAA final and score some points if he can continue to progress and put some things together."
Brandon Stryganek placed in both individual events he competed in, taking fifth in the 100m and seventh in the 200m. The junior clocked a 100m time of 10.59 and a 21.37 in the 200m to add six total points to Illinois' score. Julian Smith finished right behind Stryganek in the 100m, placing sixth with a time of 10.60, his second-fastest time of the season. David Kendziera represented the Illini in both the 110m hurdles and 400m hurdles, and contributed nine total points towards the team score. The freshman just missed the podium with a fourth-place finish in the 110m hurdles after clocking a personal-best time of 13.93, the seventh-fastest time in school history. He then took fifth in the 400m hurdles with a time of 51.50, his second-fastest time of the season.
Illinois was well represented in the 1,500m finals as Graham Morris and Liam Markham both placed in the event. Morris placed fourth with a time of 3:47.11, his second-fastest time of the season, while Markham (3:49.44) finished sixth. Ian Barnett also added points for the Orange and Blue with a sixth-place finish in the 5,000m. Both relay teams landed a spot on the podium after breaking facility records. In the 4x400m relay, DJ Zahn, Joe McAsey, Kenneth Allen and Stephon Pamilton clocked a time of 3:05.76, the second-fastest time of the season, to finish second. The 4x100m relay team also broke the facility record en route to a third-place finish. The team of Julian Smith, Brandon Stryganek, Stephon Pamilton and DJ Zahn clocked a time of 39.72 to add six points to Illinois' team score.
Branden Tanthavong added two points to the team's score with a seventh-place finish in the triple jump. The sophomore set a new personal-best mark of 15.36m in the event. Aaron Wilks advanced to the finals in the javelin in his first-ever Big Ten Championships. The freshman placed ninth, one spot away from scoring team points, with a personal-best mark of 60.17m, the 10th-best mark in school history. Ben Dodds placed 10th in the event with a mark of 58.36m.
"The little places that you don't see out in front are every bit as important," added Turk. "Those made a big difference for us to get back in that team race. The little points all matter, and if we had a few more little points we would have won today. It's not always about the event champions. Brandon Noe had a great performance against terrific discus throwers yesterday for fifth place. He beat some All-Americans and great competitors. Ryan Michel has never placed in the Big Ten and has been injured for most of the championships, so for him to come out and have a personal best and score in the high jump yesterday was very gratifying. "
Illinois is off next weekend before traveling to Fayetteville, Arkansas on May 29-31 for the NCAA West Preliminary Round.
"We have to decompress and get a little rest for a day or two, then start bringing them back to life in the middle of next week," said Turk, "We're going to have a ton of guys going to Arkansas so we'll look for a good show and hopefully we can keep stepping up and moving forward."
Final Team Results
Illinois Sunday Results at Big Ten Outdoor Championships
Triple Jump (FINAL)
Shot Put (FINAL)