Andrew Riley Highlights 2012 Track and Field Season
July 30, 2012
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - Two outdoor national titles by senior Andrew Riley and the highest NCAA outdoor finish by an Illini squad since 1988 highlighted the 2012 season for Illinois men's track and field. In his first year as head coach, Mike Turk led the Illini to a pair of top-13 finishes at the indoor and outdoor NCAA Championships and saw the Orange and Blue collect four total All-America accolades along with four individual and one relay Big Ten titles.
Illinois hosted three home meets at the UI Armory to begin the indoor season in January. The Orange and Blue earned eighth individual even titles at the Illini Open, including freshman Brandon Stryganek winning a pair of titles in the 60m and was part of the first-place 4x400m relay team. The Orange and Blue captured the Illini Classic team title, as Riley set the first of many school records in the 60m dash with a preliminary time of 6.71 and the squad won 10 individual event titles.
At the Mark Colligan Memorial Invitational, Riley reset his school record mark in the 60m (6.70) while the team tallied four first-place finishes and five second-place finishes in eight different events to finish second with 143.50 points. In the first weekend of February, the Illini tallied five individual event titles including seniors Stanley Azie (60m) and Cody Wisslead (60m hurdles), junior Brett Ramirez (weight throw), sophomore Zebo Zebe (600m) and freshman Joe McAsey (mile).
A few weeks before the conference meet, Riley clocked an NCAA automatic qualifying time twice in the 60m hurdles and went on to win the title for the second consecutive year at the Tyson Invitational. For his efforts, he was named Big Ten Track Athlete of the Week. The same weekend, a group of distance runners competed at the Husky Classic, with four of the five setting new personal-bests, including senior Phil Pompei (14:02.45) and Jim Riddle (14:03.16) placing top-10 in the 5,000m and notching the fourth and fifth best times in school history.
On the last weekend of February, the newest member of the Big Ten conference, Nebraska, hosted the Big Ten Indoor Championships at the Devaney Center Indoor Track. Riley won the 60m for the first time in his career and completed the fourth-peat in the 60m hurdles. The squad placed seventh overall in a loaded field featuring five teams ranked in the USTFCCCA national poll. A pair of Illini earned runner-up spots with Cody Wisslead in the 60m hurdles and Stryganek in the 200m. Stryganek also reached the podium, taking third place in the 60m. In all, the underclassmen scored 21 of the total points for the Illini.
At the NCAA Indoor Championships, Illinois racked up 13 points and finished 13th, marking the highest finish by an Illini squad since 1995 when they tied for fourth. Riley just missed a national title in the 60m, placing second with a school record mark of 6.57, one-hundredth of a second behind returning NCAA champion Jeff Demps of Florida. The Kingston, Jamaica, native finished fourth in the 60m hurdles (7.58) and set a facility record in the prelims (7.55).
A few weeks after the national championships concluded, the squad began their outdoor campaign by helping the Big Ten capture conference pride by topping the SEC in the SEC/Big Ten Challenge. The meet was highlighted by Davis Fraker who began the outdoor season with a bang, breaking the hammer throw school record and the Carl Maddox Track facility record. A select group then competed well at the Eastern Illinois University Big Blue Classic, with multiple Illini setting lifetime bests in their respective events.
Illinois placed fourth at the LSU Invitational while senior Kyle Engnell earned Big Ten Track Athlete of the Week for his performance at the Stanford Invitational, as he was the first collegiate runner to finish the 3,000m steeplechase. The following weekend, the Orange and Blue finished third at the Tom Botts Invitational as the field events shined.
The squad split up for the next two weekends, as Riley highlighted the John McDonnell Invitational, setting the then second fastest time in the world and a new school record while four of the five Illini set lifetime-bests at the Mt. SAC Relays. On the first night of the 103rd Drake Relays, senior Colin Mickow won the 10,000m title to give Illinois its 138th total title at the Relays, the most by any school. The same weekend, select sprinters competed at the Penn Relays, as the 4x100m relay, Riley and Azie advanced to the finals in their respective events and Riley won the 110m hurdles title.
At the Big Ten Outdoor Championships, hosted by Wisconsin, three Big Ten titles highlighted the final day of competition, as the squad placed eighth overall with 65 points. Riley led off the 4x100m relay of Stryganek, Jade Ackerman and Azie for their second-straight crown, before winning the 100m and 110m hurdles. Azie was runner-up in the 100m and set the second-fastest 200m time after finishing fourth in the event. Freshman Corey Hammon set a school record in the decathlon while two Illini, Hunter Mickow and Jim Riddle scored points for the Illini in the 10,000m for the first time since 2005. For his efforts, Riley was named Big Ten Track Athlete of the Year and of the Championships.
Following the conference meet, the Illini qualified 18 athletes in 12 events to the NCAA West Preliminary Round of Championship in Austin, Texas. Five athletes in five events clinched a berth to nationals over the three days of competition at Drake Stadium. Riley broke the 19-year old 100m school record with a time of 10.03 and led off the 4x100m relay to a third-straight national appearance. Senior Kyle Engnell qualified in the 3,000m steeplechase while Azie (100m, 200m) also advanced.
At the NCAA Outdoor Championships, Illinois racked up 20 points and tied for 11th, marking the highest finish by an Illini squad in 23 years since placing seventh in 1988. Riley won the 110m hurdles and the 100m national title, making him the first male athlete in the NCAA to win those two events in the same year. The 4x100m relay squad earned first-team All-America honors for the second consecutive year, qualifying for the finals of the event.
For his incredible season, Riley was honored as United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association's National Track Athlete of the Year and was the University of Illinois Male Dike Eddleman Athlete of the Year for the second consecutive year, making him the 15th men's track athlete to earn the laurel. The Kingston, Jamaica, native also is a finalist for the Bowerman Award which is given to nation's top male and female athlete and he qualified for Team Jamaica in the 110m hurdles at the London Olympic Games.