Returning All-American Brandon Stryganek will open his 2013 season at the Illini Classic this weekend.
Jan. 17, 2013
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The Fighting Illini men's track and field team will continue competition as they host the Illini Classic on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 18-19 at the UI Armory. The multi-events will begin on Friday at 4:30 p.m. while Saturday will be split into two sessions, with field events beginning at 9 a.m. followed by running events at 11:15 a.m. The track event finals will begin at 2:30 p.m with a senior day recognition taking placing at 4:20 p.m. Admission is free to the public and a full schedule of events and heat sheets can be found above.
"We're ready for this weekend's competition," head coach Mike Turk said. "The guys really enjoy the opportunity to compete in front of the home crowd and they want to show the kind of quality team and program we have here at Illinois. Being a scored meet against quality in-state opponents makes it even more exciting. Our guys are focused on performing well. Everyone on the team that is healthy with the exception of a few redshirts will be competing."
The Illini will welcome six other squads to the Illini Classic, including Bradley, Lincoln (Mo.), Marquette, Southern Illinois, Southern Illinois-Edwardsville and Western Illinois. The track events in the afternoon session will be on a rolling schedule with the women slated to run first in each event followed by the men.
Sophomore Brandon Stryganek will highlight the short sprints as he will run the 60m at 12:45 p.m. and the 200m at 4:15 p.m. Stryganek's two events will mark the first competition in an Illinois uniform since helping the 4x100m relay team to advancing to the NCAA finals and earning first-team All-American honors for the first time in his career.
Coach Turk is also looking forward to seeing transfer Vanier Joseph competing for the first time in an Illinois uniform. The junior will run his specialty, the 60m hurdles at 1:25 and will be one of five Illini to compete in the 60m dash.
"Vanier is a key performer for us this year," Turk said. "He was an NCAA qualifier two years ago before transferring to Illinois. After sitting out last year, I know he is anxious to put on the uniform and perform well. I think he could surprise a lot of people this year."
Other Illini athletes to watch include transfer Graham Morris in the 800m as he will be the anchor to the middle distance group this year. Four runners will make their season debut in the mile, including top returner Hunter Mickow and senior Jannis Topefer while senior Kyle Engnell will begin his season competing in the 3,000m.
"Jannis is coming of a terrific cross country season where he qualified for the NCAA Championships," Turk said. "He was a really surprise for us this fall and that's not really his specialty. His speciality is the steeplechase outdoors but I'm sure he will have an impact for us in the 3,000 and 5,000 indoors. He's a really great competitor and has taken a bit of a leadership role on our squad as well."
After setting the 17-year old school record in the decathlon last year, sophomore Corey Hammon will open his 2013 season this weekend when he competes in the heptathlon which begins Friday night. Joining him will be junior Steve Monte who has won the event for the past two years.
The Illini Classic is the last home meet for 11 Fighting Illini seniors, who will be recognized for their contributions in between the 200m and the 4x400m relays, around 4:20 p.m.
"The seniors are a special group of guys," Turk said. "They have been through the rebuilding of the program and it hasn't always been easy. They have embraced the core values we have set forth and imposed cultural changes within the program. This program is on the rise because of their character. They will forever have my adoration."
Next weekend, the Illini will travel to Bloomington, Ind., to compete in the Indiana Relays on Friday, Jan. 25 and Saturday, Jan. 26.