2014 Track and Field Season in Review
July 31, 2014
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Fighting Illini men's track and field team ended the 2014 season with four individual Big Ten titles, eight second-team All-America accolades and 33 additions to the program's all-time top-10 lists. In his third year as head coach, Mike Turk was named the USTFCCCA Men's Coach of the Year for the Midwest region after leading the Illini to a runner-up finish at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships, the highest team finish since 1994. The Orange and Blue also reached a No. 14 ranking by the USTFCCCA, the highest mid-season ranking in program history, after winning the HyVee Cup at the Drake Relays for the second straight year.
Illinois began the indoor season in January at the Illini Open, where the team collected seven individual event titles. The Orange and Blue returned to the UI Armory a week later and captured the Illini Classic team title by a 125-point margin after winning seven events.
On Jan, 24, the Fighting Illini traveled to Lexington, Kentucky and collected two event titles at the Rod McCravy Memorial before competing at the Indiana Relays the following weekend. Although the full squad did not compete in Bloomington, the Illini still managed to record 17 top-10 finishes, including Brandon Stryganek's first-place finish in the 200m.
Illinois had some breakthrough performances at the Frank Sevigne Husker Invitational on Feb. 7-8, with Joe McAsey cracking Illinois' all-time top-10 list to win the 600m title. Jannis Toepfer (3,000m) and Zebo Zebe (800m) also won event titles, while 19 other Illini recorded top-10 finishes at the meet.
The squad split in mid February, with the distance crew traveling to the Iowa State Classic while the rest of the team traveled to the site of the Big Ten Indoor Championships for the Spire Invitational. Ten Illini set new personal-bests, while three cracked Illinois' all-time top-10 list in their respective events. Illinois recorded 11 top-10 finishes, including seven in the top-5. Vanier Joseph placed second in the 60m hurdles, while the 4x400m relay team of DJ Zahn, Cam Viney, Kenneth Allen and Stephon Pamilton also notched a runner-up finish. At the Iowa State Classic, Jordan Hebert clocked the fourth-fastest 5,000m time in school history.
In the final meet of the regular season, Illinois returned to the UI Armory for the Orange & Blue Open where six Illini won event titles. Fuad Akinbiyi (60m), Cam Viney (60m hurdles), Darius Thomas (600m), Zebo Zebe (800m), Ian Barnett (3,000m) and Matthew Bane (pole vault) all placed first in their respective events, while David Kendziera finished runner-up in the 60m hurdles with the ninth-fastest time in school history. That same weekend, the distance medley relay squad (Luke Carroll, Joe McAsey, Stephon Pamilton, Liam Markham) traveled to South Bend, Ind. to compete in the Alex Wilson Invitational and placed 11th with a season-best time of 9:33.88, the second-fastest time in school history.
The Illini traveled to Geneva, Ohio on the last weekend in February for the Big Ten Indoor Championships, where they finished fourth with 71.5 points. Pamilton successfully defended his 400m title, while DJ Zahn placed second with the seventh-fastest time in school history. Joe McAsey finished runner-up in the 600m with the fourth-fastest time in school history, while Vanier Joseph placed third in the 60m hurdles. The 4x400m relay team (Zahn, Cam Viney, Kenneth Allen, Pamilton) also landed a spot on the podium, placing third with the fifth-fastest time in school history.
Two weeks later, Vanier Joseph and Davis Fraker represented Illinois at the 2014 NCAA Indoor Championships. Both earned second-team All-America honors as Joseph just missed a spot in the 60m hurdles finals with a 10th place finish, while Fraker placed 14th in the weight throw.
The Orange and Blue started the outdoor season with a bang as eight Illini won event titles, with Joseph (110m hurdles) and Ben Dodds (javelin) each setting a new meet record en route to first-place finishes. Illinois took four out of the top-five spots in the 100m dash, including first-place finisher Brandon Stryganek, while Joe McAsey won the 800m title. Graham Morris (1,500m) and Branden Tanthavong (triple jump) each notched first-place finishes, while the 4x100m relay team of Julian Smith, Stryganek, Pamilton and Zahn placed first in their season debut. The following weekend, the Orange and Blue traveled to the Tiger Track Classic, where three Illini won event titles. The squad notched 18 top-five finishes, while six Illini set new personal bests in their events.
On April 12, Illinois hosted its first outdoor meet since 2010. The team racked up 11 event titles at the Illinois Twilight and scored 253 points to win the meet. Joseph won the 110m hurdles for the third straight week after setting a new facility record and clocking the second-fastest time in school history. His time of 13.41 was also the fastest in the nation at the time. Brandon Stryganek won the 100m with a time of 10.29, which is the fourth-fastest time in school history, while Stephon Pamilton clocked the seventh-fastest time in school history to win the 200m. The 4x100m relay (Smith, Stryganek, Pamilton, Zahn) set a new facility record and the then-fastest time in the Big Ten to place first, while Zahn (400m), Ian Barnett (3,000m), Liam Markham (1,500m), Brendan McDonnell (5,000m), Davis Fraker (hammer throw) and Blaze Galardy (pole vault) also won their respective events.
One week later, the team split up for a pair of meets as the majority of the team competed at the Kentucky Relays in Lexington, Ky., while a small distance group traveled to California. At the Kentucky Relays, the Illini captured three event titles, while the team totaled 11 top-three finishes over the weekend. Three Illini entered Illinois all-time top-10 lists, including Cody Klein who set the sixth-best mark in school history en route to a first-place finish in the pole vault.
At the prestigious Drake Relays, the Fighting Illini won the HyVee Cup for the second straight year, scoring 34 team points in five relay events to tie with then-ranked No. 4 Arkansas. The Illini also crowned an individual champion as Vanier Joseph won the 110m hurdles title for the second year in a row. One week later at the final meet of the regular season, team team placed third at the Musco Twilight with three individual event titles.
Illinois finished runner-up at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships, totaling 109 points to record the highest team finish since 1994. Three Illini were crowned conference champions, as Stephon Pamilton (400m) and Vanier Joseph (110m hurdles) successfully defended their titles, while Joe McAsey (800m) clocked the ninth-fastest time in school history to capture his first Big Ten title. The Illini also got runner-up finishes from DJ Zahn (400m), Cam Viney (400m hurdles) and the 4x400m relay (Zahn, McAsey, Kenneth Allen, Pamilton).
Following the conference meet, the Illini earned 20 bids from 17 individual athletes, as well as both the 4x100m and 4x400m relays, to the NCAA West Preliminary Round of Championship. After the three days of competition, DJ Zahn (400m), Joe McAsey (800m), Cam Viney (400m hurdles), Brandon Stryganek (200m) and the 4x400m relay (Zahn, McAsey, Kenneth Allen, Stephon Pamilton) qualified to compete at the NCAA Championships in Euegene, Oregon.
At the NCAA Championships, five Illini earned second-team All-America honors. Joe McAsey placed 14th in the 800m, while Brandon Stryganek took 15th in the 200m. The 4x400m relay team of DJ Zahn, McAsey, Kenneth Allen and Stephon Pamilton placed 10th to earn second-team honors.