Orange and Blue Grab NCAA Bids in Three More Events
May 26, 2012
AUSTIN, Texas - The Illinois men's track and field team was a perfect three for three on Saturday at Mike A. Myers Stadium, as the Orange and Blue qualified for the NCAA Championships out of each quarterfinal in which they were entered. The 4x100m relay started off the day by advancing to nationals for the third year in a row while senior Andrew Riley followed it up, winning his heat in the 110m hurdles with a time of 13.33. Senior Stanley Azie closed out the day by earning a spot in the 200m.
"We had another good day," head coach Mike Turk said. "We'll be well represented at the national finals. I am very pleased with the guys. We have put ourselves in great position to push ourselves up in the team standings."
The Illini boasted entries in 12 events at the NCAA West Preliminary Round and advanced to nationals in nearly half of them. Illinois qualified in five total events, with the three from Saturday joining Riley (100m), Azie (100m) and Engnell (3,000m steeplechase), who punched their tickets yesterday. The 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships will be held from June 6-9 in Des Moines, Iowa, at Drake Stadium.
Riley tallied the second fastest overall time in the quarterfinals and the second-fastest mark this season. The Kingston, Jamaica, native continued his bid for a repeat national title and earned a fourth-straight appearance at the NCAA Championships. Riley was just off his personal best and current school record time of 13.28, set at the John McDonnell Invitational in April.
"Andrew (Riley) ran extremely well," Turk said. "He easily qualified by winning his heat. Not to be overshadowed, Gary Ford ran a huge personal best and just missed advancing. He's the future of our hurdle crew and that was a great step forward for him."
In the second heat of the 4x100m relay, the Orange and Blue team of Riley, freshman Brandon Stryganek, freshman DJ Zahn and Azie rolled to the victory with a time of 39.29, punching a ticket to the NCAA Championships for the third-straight season. The foursome recorded the second-fastest mark of the day, a season-best and second quickest in school history.
"We ran DJ (Zahn) on the third leg for the first time and it came together really well," Turk said. "We have quality and depth in our sprint crew. This is the third different line up we have had that has run under 39.75 this year. It's hard to have enough quality sprinters to do that and it's ever harder to get the exchanges down. Ours were great today."
Azie, who will run at nationals in three events, timed 20.79 and finished fourth in the second heat of the 200m. The Bolingbrook, Ill., native's time was the 11th fastest of the 12 qualifiers who will compete in Des Moines.
"Stanley (Azie) was a warrior this weekend," Turk said. "I know he was tired going into tonight's race. Fortunately, he had enough gas left in the tank to get through to the finals. Brandon (Stryganek) was also very tired after all of his races and he had a tough draw in lane two. He gained valuable experience that will serve him well down the road. He'll be stronger next year."
Illinois Saturday Results at NCAA West Preliminary Round