March 14, 2009
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Juniors Angela Bizzarri and Aja Evans picked up a pair of All-America honors for the Illini women's track and field team at the NCAA Indoor Championships, closing out a successful indoor season for Illinois.
Bizzarri was fourth in the 3,000m while Evans took fifth in the shot put on Saturday at Texas A&M's Gilliam Indoor Stadium. The Illini 4x400m relay was also in action, taking 10th to close out the meet. As a team, the Orange and Blue finished tied for 27th with nine points.
"We had some great performances so I'm very happy," head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said. "Angela ran awesome, as she always does, and Aja performed extremely well. This is our best point score at indoor nationals in a long time. The relay ran well and did their best. For three of them it was their first time at a meet this caliber, so we need some more experience at this level. I'm not disappointed at all in how they ran."
Bizzarri picked up the sixth All-America accolade of her career on Saturday with her performance in the 3,000m. The junior was fourth in the 18-member field, timing 9:15.50 for the second-fastest race of her career. She was the first Big Ten finisher in the event, topping Wisconsin's Gwen Jorgensen and Penn State's Bridger Franek. Colorado junior Jenny Barringer was 3,000m national champion with an impressive time of 8:42.03 that set a new collegiate record. Bizzarri continued her trend of running her best against national competition, finishing sixth at the 2008 NCAA Cross Country Championships and second in the 5,000m at the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Championships.
Evans earned All-America honors in the shot put for the second consecutive year at the NCAA Indoor Championships, placing fifth this year after taking ninth a season ago. She had a personal-best throw of 55-0 3/4 (16.78m), resetting her own school record for the second time this season by a centimeter. Her previous personal-best in the shot put was 16.77m, done at the Alex Wilson Invitational. Florida junior Mariam Kevkhishvili was NCAA champion in the event with a throw of 58-6 1/2.
The 4x400m relay also had a strong performance, as the squad of senior Deserea Brown, freshman Ryisha Boyd, senior Omoye Ugiagbe and sophomore Melissa Bates placed 10th with a time of 3:37.30. It was the relay's second-fastest performance of the season following their school-record race of 3:35.13 from the Alex Wilson Invitational. Host Texas A&M won the relay with a time of 3:32.52.
Illinois is off from competition next weekend, opening the outdoor season on March 27at the UCF Invitational in Orlando, Fla.