May 28, 2008
NCAA Mideast Regional Track & Field Championships
Friday, May 30 - Saturday, May 31
Jack McDonnell Field, Fayetteville, Ark.
The Fighting Illini women's track and field team will send 14 athletes to compete at the 2008 NCAA Mideast Regional Track and Field Championships on Friday, May 30 and Saturday, May 31 at Jack McDonnell Field in Fayetteville, Ark. The top five finishers in every event will earn a trip to the NCAA Championships from June 11-14 in Des Moines, Iowa. In 2007, the Illini had four athletes advance to nationals (Yvonne Mensah - triple jump, Camile Robinson - 400m hurdles, Carlene Robinson - 400m hurdles, LaNeisha Waller - 100m hurdles).
Illinois will open competition on Friday at 3 p.m. with the 4x100m relay prelims. Finals for the long jump (Jessica Penney, LaNeisha Waller) and 5,000m (Angela Bizzarri) will be held on Friday along with all event prelims. Remaining finals will be held on Saturday, beginning with Aja Evans in the shot put at noon and ending with the 3,000m steeplechase final at 7:15 p.m. Live results will be available throughout the meet at www.hogwired.com.
Illinois NCAA Mideast Regional Championships Competition Schedule
Friday, May 30
3 p.m. 4x100m Relay Prelims
3:30 p.m. 1,500m Prelims (Katie Engel, Rachel Hernandez)
4:10 p.m. 100m Hurdles Prelims (LaNeisha Waller, Nikkita Holder)
4:50 p.m. 100m Prelims (Tiara Armstrong)
5 p.m. Long Jump (LaNeisha Waller, Jessica Penney)
6:50 p.m. 400m Hurdles Prelims (Briana Cunningham)
7:30 p.m. 200m Prelims (Tiara Armstrong)
8:10 p.m. 5,000m Final (Angela Bizzarri)
Saturday, May 31
12 p.m. Shot Put (Aja Evans)
5 p.m. 4x100m Relay Final
5:20 p.m. 1,500m Final
5:45 p.m. 100m Hurdles Final
6:05 p.m. 100m Final
6:40 p.m. 400m Hurdles Final
7:00 p.m. 200m Final
7:15 p.m. 3,000m Steeplechase Final (Danelle Woods, Chantelle Groenewoud)
Illini Competing At The NCAA Mideast Regional Championships
Tiara Armstrong, 100m // 200m (Sr., Dayton, Ohio)
Armstrong has been the Illini's most consistent sprinter all season, highlighted by taking third in the 100m, fifth in the 200m and leading the 4x100m relay to a third-place finish at the Big Ten Championships on May 18. The senior also won an individual conference title in the indoor season, taking the 60m crown in March. She has shown steady improvement throughout her career, running personal-bests in both the 100m and 200m this season.
Angela Bizzarri, 5,000m (So., Mason, Ohio)
Bizzarri is one of the Illini's top contenders to advance to the NCAA Championships, as she ranks sixth in the region in the 5,000m. The sophomore recently finished second in the 5,000m and fifth in the 1,500m at the Big Ten Championships and owns the second-fastest times in school history in both events. Bizzarri competed in the 1,500m at last year's NCAA Outdoor Championships, but will focus on the 5,000m this season. A two-time cross country All-American, Bizzarri was an All-American in indoor track and field in March as a member of the distance medley relay.
Briana Cunningham, 400m Hurdles (Sr., Indianapolis, Ind.)
Cunningham continued the Illini tradition in the 400m hurdles by placing first in the event at the Big Ten Championships on May 18. She has had a breakout senior season and continues to improve, running the two fastest races of her career in Big Ten prelims and the Big Ten final. Cunningham looks to qualify for her first NCAA Championships, ranking sixth in the region in the 400m hurdles. She ran a regional qualifying time in every 400m hurdles race this year, notably taking first in the event at the prestigous Kansas Relays on April 19.
Katie Engel, 1,500m (So., Ottawa, Ontario)
Engel missed the first part of the outdoor season with shin splints, but still qualified for the regional championships in the 1,500m for the second straight year with a season-best time of 4:27.07 at the Brutus Hamilton Invitational on April 26. The sophomore also advanced to the 1,500m final at the Big Ten Championships, placing 10th. Engel is one of the top contributers on the Illini cross country team, earning All-Region and All-Big Ten honors in 2007.
Aja Evans, Shot Put (So., Chicago, Ill.)
Evans won the Big Ten shot put title on May 17, crushing the field with a distance of 55' 10 1/2". The mark reset the Illinois school shot put record that she already owned and moved her up to third in the region and eighth in the country in the event. The UNLV transfer also set the Illini indoor shot put record this season and placed ninth at the NCAA Indoor Championships to earn All-America honors.
Chantelle Groenewoud, 3,000m Steeplechase (Fr., N. Vancouver, B.C.)
Groenewoud qualified for the regional championships as a true freshman by timing 10:40.06 in the steeplechase on April 25 at the Brutus Hamilton Invitational to rank third on the Illini all-time performance list. She just missed the scoring column at the Big Ten Championships, placing ninth but still running a regional qualifying time of 10:46.12.
Rachel Hernandez, 1,500m (Sr., Romeoville, Ill.)
Hernandez has had her best performances in her last season as an Illini, following a solid cross country season with becoming an indoor All-American as a member of the distance medley relay. This outdoor season, Hernandez ran career-best times in the 800m (2:08.62) and 1,500m (4:25.82), qualifying for the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships in both. She will focus on the 1,500m at regionals.
Nikkita Holder, 100m Hurdles (Jr., Pickering, Ontario)
Holder ran a career-best time of 13.42 in the 100m hurdles prelims at the Big Ten Championships and followed that performance by taking fifth in the event in finals. She hit the regional standard in the 100m hurdles six times this season to qualify for the NCAA Mideast Regional Championships for the second consecutive year.
Jessica Penney, Long Jump (Fr., Wellington, New Zealand)
Penney scored in the Big Ten Championships by placing eighth in the long jump with a season-best leap of 20' 5". The true freshman and New Zealand native owns a personal-best mark of 20'10 3/4" from the World Junior Track & Field Championships in August 2006. Penney also competed in the hurdles for the Illini this season.
LaNeisha Waller, 100m Hurdles // Long Jump (Sr., Cedar Rapids, Iowa)
Waller competed in the 100m hurdles at the NCAA Outdoor Championships last season, and is shooting for a return trip in her best event. The senior recently finished fourth in the hurdles at the Big Ten Championships against one of the meet's toughest field of competitors. She currently ranks fifth in the region and 15th in the country in the 100m hurdles, with a season-best time of 13.18 from the Brutus Hamilton Invitational on April 26. Waller also has a shot at nationals in the long jump, where she is sixth in the region with a personal-best jump from the Big Ten Championships. One of the most versatile athletes on the team, Waller will also run the second leg of the 4x100m relay.
Danelle Woods, 3,000m Steeplechase (Fr., Ottawa, Ontario)
Woods has had an amazing year for the Illini, aiming for a trip to the NCAA Outdoor Championships after already competing in the NCAA Cross Country Championships and NCAA Indoor Championships as a freshman. She posts the best steeplechase time in the region (10:22.36) that also ranks second on Illinois' all-time performance list. Woods was third in the event at the Big Ten Championships and also competed in the 1,500m.
4x100m Relay (Tiara Armstrong, LaNeisha Waller, Tamika Robinson, Analisa Austin, Cheria Morgan)
Illinois ran its fastest 4x100m of the season in the Big Ten Championship prelims, with Armstrong, Waller, Morgan and Robinson timing 44.85. The same squad timed 45.11 the next day in finals to place third. Illinois has ran regional qualifying times in the 4x100m relay five times this season, with Armstrong and Waller the two mainstays.
2008 Illinois Highlights
Winckler Announces Retirement:
Illinois head coach Gary Winckler announced on April 4 that he is retiring following the 2008 season after 23 years at Illinois. Long regarded as one of the top track and field coaches in the country, Winckler led the Illini to 11 Big Ten Championships and was coincidently named Big Ten Coach of the Year 11 times and National Coach of the Year once. Current Illini associate head coach and former Winckler pupil Tonja Buford-Bailey was named as Winckler's replacement, and will take over head coaching duties this summer.
Three Illini Honored As Big Ten Athletes of the Week:
Illinois had three athletes honored this outdoor season by the conference: senior LaNeisha Waller, sophomore Angela Bizzarri and sophomore Aja Evans. Waller was named Big Ten Track Athlete of the Week on April 1 for qualifying for the NCAA Regional Championships in three events - the 100m hurdles, long jump and 4x100m relay - at the Hurricane Challenge in Coral Gables, Fla. Bizzarri also was named Big Ten Track Athlete of the Week, receiving the honor on April 29 after running the second-fastest 5,000m time in Illinois history (16:16.43) and winning the event at the Brutus Hamilton Invitational in Berkeley, Calif. Evans received Big Ten Field Athlete of the Week honors on May 6, after setting a school record in thet shot put at the Illinois Twilight (55' 8/14") that then ranked fifth in the country.