Feb. 7, 2009
The Fighting Illini women's track and field team had its best weekend of the indoor season competing as a split squad, earning one automatic and two provisional qualifying times for the NCAA Indoor Championships in meets at Notre Dame and Kentucky.
Junior Angela Bizzarri set a school record in the 3,000m at the Meyo Invitational in South Bend, Ind. on Saturday. The five-time All-American ran a time of 9:11.62 in placing third, automatically qualifying for the NCAA Championships and smashing her previous personal-best of 9:23.02 in the event. It was her first competition since taking sixth at the 2008 NCAA Cross Country Championships in November. Bizzarri broke Cassie Hunt's 3,000m indoor record of 9:15.16 set in 2006.
The Orange and Blue notched two NCAA provisional qualifying marks at the Rod McCravy Memorial Meet in Lexington, Ky. on Saturday, with Tamika Robinson in the 60m hurdles and the Illini 4x400m relay.
Below is a full recap of both meets:
ROD MCCRAVY MEMORIAL MEET - LEXINGTON, KY.
The Illini 4x400m relay accomplished what it wanted to on Saturday, running a NCAA provisional qualifying time of 3:39.90 and taking second. The squad of senior Deserea Brown, sophomore Melissa Bates, freshman Ryisha Boyd and senior Omoye Ugiagbe improved on their previous season-best by five seconds. Western Kentucky won the race in a time of 3:37.97.
Sophomore Tamika Robinson also ran a NCAA provisional qualifying time for the first time in her career, taking third in the 60m hurdles with a personal-best time of 8.37. She was the top collegiate finisher in the event, placing behind two Olympians. Hyleas Fountain, who won the silver medal in the heptathlon for the U.S. at the 2008 Olympics, took first in a time of 8.02 and Josanne Lucas, who competed in the 400m hurdles at the 2008 Olympics of Trinidad & Tobago, was second in 8.21.
"We had really solid performances across the board," head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said. "Everybody had either a personal-best or a season-best. Tamika (Robinson) toughed it out and didn't get distracted in the hurdles, running within her race and another PR. Our 4x400 relay came here with the goal of provisionally qualifying, and they did that. They can still run a lot faster if we fix some things."
All four members of the Illini 4x400m relay also ran the open 400m, with each finishing in the top seven and running at least a season-best. Boyd was runner-up in an impressive time of 55.16 in her first time running the 400m as an Illini. Bates was close behind in third with a personal-best time of 55.18, while Ugiagbe ran a season-best 55.30 in placing fourth. Brown placed seventh, running a personal-best 55.70.
Sophomore Jessica Penney was the Illini's top performer in the field events, taking fourth in the long jump with a leap of 19-6 1/4. Senior Jackie Ziegler took fourth in the pole vault (12-1 1/2), while freshman Kendall McCaugherty made her collegiate debut in the high jump, marking 5-4 1/4 and tying for seventh.
Other top-10 finishes for the Orange and Blue were Nikkita Holder in the 60m hurdles (8.60, ninth), Bates in the 200m (24.84, 10th), Alecia Beckford-Stewart in the long jump (18-2 1/4, 10th) and Kelly Washington in the triple jump (37-4 1/2, 10th).
MEYO INVIATIONAL - SOUTH BEND, IND.
Bizzarri's school record time of 9:11.62 in the 3,000m placed her third in the event, with Lindsay Carson of Guelph (Canada) winning in a time of 9:10.04 and Wisconsin's Gwen Jorgensen finishing second (9:10.12).
"With Angela coming off of a great cross country season, we're trying to do things a little different than last year on the track," distance coach Jeremy Rasmussen said. "Seeing what she's been doing in practice led me to believe she could run 9:15 or under, so it wasn't a surprise. With a few more races under her belt she's definitely got it in her to run faster."
Freshman Kristin Sutherland had a successful Illinois track debut on Friday night, finishing runner-up in the 5,000m. Sutherland ran a time of 16:55.38 in the event, taking second in a field of 27 athletes. Juniors Elizabeth Boyle and Theresa Brokaw also finished in the top-10 for the Orange and Blue, with Boyle running 17:32.15 in placing seventh and Brokaw finishing 10th in a time of 17:41.09. Both ran the 5,000m indoor for the first time in their careers.
"As a group we really came in and took care of business," Rasmussen said. "To open up how we did says a lot about the work we have been putting in."
Illinois will compete next weekend at the ISU Classic in Ames, Iowa on Feb. 13-14. It will be the final week of competition for most of the team before the Big Ten Indoor Championships in Bloomington, Ind. on Feb. 28-March 1.