March 28, 2009
ORLANDO, Fla. - Illinois women's track and field opened the outdoor season this weekend at the UCF Invitational at the UCF Track and Field Complex, coming home with two athletes who qualified for the NCAA Regional Championships.
Junior All-American Aja Evans became the first Illini to qualify for the regional championships this season, doing so in the shot put on Friday with a throw of 52-9 1/2. Evans also took first in the event in a field of 13 athletes.
Senior Deserea Brown qualified for the regional championships as well in making her Illinois debut in the 400m hurdles. Brown timed 1:00.72 in the event to finish runner-up to Florida International's Brittney Boston (59.55).
Illinois was dominant in the 400m, taking the first three places. Freshman Ryisha Boyd was first with a time of 55.07, followed by teammates Omoye Ugiagbe (55.37) and Melissa Bates (56.03) in second and third.
Sophomore Tamika Robinson took fourth in the 100m hurdles with a wind-aided time of 13.83, while Brown (14.01) and Nikkita Holder (14.03) finished in sixth and seventh. Freshman Latoya Griffith ran a strong 400m hurdles race, placing sixth with a time of 1:03.66.
In the long jump, junior Alecia Beckford-Stewart missed qualifying for regionals by one centimeter with a personal-best leap of 19-8, placing third in the event. Three Illini followed Beckford-Stewart with the sixth through eighth places in the long jump, with freshman Jayla McArthur (18-9 1/4), sophomore Jasmin Clark (18-3 3/4) and sophomore Kelly Washington (18-1 1/2). Beckford-Stewart also took fourth in the javelin with a throw of 114-9.
In the sprinting events, Robinson timed 11.82 in the 100m to take sixth, while Evans (12.05) and sophomores Cheria Morgan (12.09) and Jessica Penney (12.11) finished 13th through 15th. Bates and Ugiagbe were Illinois' top finishers in the 200m, placing 12th and 13th with times of 24.40 and 24.54, respectively.
The Orange and Blue ran two 4x400m relays, with Ugiagbe, Brown, Paris Streeter and Bates placing third (3:45.68) and the all-freshman squad of Griffith, Ashley Kelly, Boyd and Jayla McArthur taking fifth (3:51.75). The Illini 4x100m relay of Evans, Robinson, Morgan and Ugiagbe was fifth with a time of 46.53.
Next up for the Orange and Blue is the prestigious Texas Relays, held Wednesday, April 1 through Saturday, April 4 in Austin, Texas.