May 30, 2009
Four University of Illinois women's track and field athletes finished in the top 5 in their respective events in Louisville at the Regional Meet this weekend to qualify for the NCAA Outdoor Championships set for June 10-13 in Fayetteville, Ark. After Angela Bizzarri won the 5,000-meters on Friday, three additional teammates followed her lead with qualifying finishes. A pair of newcomers to the roster this season excelled in the 400-meter hurdles as senior Deserea Brown won the event and freshman Latoya Griffith took third. Sophomore Chantelle Groenewoud placed fourth in the steeplechase to round out the qualifiers for the Illini.
As a team, the Illini took fourth in the field of 29 teams with 43 points, and second among the seven Big Ten teams in attendance.
"It was a great weekend," said head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey. "We competed well as a team and finished in top four in our region. I think that is the best we have done during my time at Illinois. Angela (Bizzarri) winning two years in a row in the 5,000 is outstanding, but overall all the women competed really well and that was the key. Deserea Brown coming from division II to division I and performing the way she did was huge for her and she has been a great role model for Latoya (Griffith). It helps when you have a teammate in your same events to help push you along."
In addition to the four individuals qualified, the Illini could see four more added on Monday when the entire NCAA field is announced. Junior Aja Evans took seventh in the shot put, two places out of automatic advancement, with 16.02m (52-06.75) throw. She is ranked sixth in the nation in the event. The 4x400 relay team of Brown, Omoye Ugiagbe, Ryisha Boyd and Melissa Bates bested their regional six seed with their fifth-place finish and a new season-best time of 3:34.69. Bates, the sophomore Big Ten champion in the 400 meters, also has a shot in the event after finishing seventh with a time of 54.59.
NCAA Mid East Regional * qualified for NCAA Championships
Shot Put (Finals) 7. Aja Evans 16.02m / 52-06.75
Triple Jump (Finals) 16. Alexandria Smith 12.05m / 39-06.50
400-meter Hurdles (Finals) 1. Deserea Brown* 57.00 3. Latoya Griffith* 57.87
Team Standings 1. LSU - 85.5 2. Tennessee - 69 3. Michigan - 48 4. Illinois - 43 5. Auburn - 35.5 6. Indiana - 34.5 7. Arkansas - 33 8. Louisville - 29 9. Michigan State - 26 10. Alabama - 23.5