April 10, 2008
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - The Illini women's track and field team will travel a full squad for the first time this season in competing at Arizona State's Sun Angel Track Classic on Saturday, April 12 in Tempe, Ariz. Action kicks off at noon with the discus at Sun Angel Stadium.
The meet will be Illinois' toughest test thus far, competing against a field that includes Big Ten rivals Michigan and Penn State, No. 5 Florida and No. 1 Arizona State, the 2008 NCAA Indoor Champions. It will also mark a homecoming for first-year distance coach Jeremy Rasmussen, who was previously an assistant at Arizona State.
"Our performance at this meet against top-level competition will tell a lot about how much progress we've made over the last two weeks," head coach Gary Winckler said. "Our upperclassmen have done a good job of stepping up, and we hope to continue to better our times and qualify more people for regionals."
Illinois already has posted eight NCAA regional qualifying marks in the outdoor season, led by senior LaNeisha Waller who has qualified in the 100m hurdles (13.45 seconds), long jump (19 feet, 11 ¾ inches) and as a member of the 4x100m relay (45.57). Waller is scheduled to compete in all three events on Saturday.
Senior Tiara Armstrong already has a regional time in the 200m (23.95) and will try to qualify in the 100m, where she currently holds the top time in the Big Ten (11.78). Senior Briana Cunningham ran a personal-best time of 59.00 in the 400m hurdles at the Hurricane Challenge two weeks ago, which ranks first in both the Big Ten and the NCAA Mideast Region.
Illini looking to earn NCAA regional qualifying marks for the first time this year include junior Omoye Ugiagbe (200m, 400m), freshman Melssa Bates (triple jump, 200m) and freshmen Cheria Morgan and Analisa Austin (100m).
Illinois' top distance runners will also run on the outdoor track for the first time in 2008, highlighted by sophomore Angela Bizzarri in the 1,500m and 5,000m. Bizzarri is looking for a return trip to the NCAA Championships this season after qualifying in the 1,500m in 2007. Freshman Danelle Woods will make her Illini debut in the steeplechase, where she has recorded first-place finishes at the Pan-Am Junior Championships and Canadian Track & Field Championships.
The Illini will head to Lawrence, Kan. next week for the Kansas Relays from April 17-19.