Illini Crown Two Conference Champions
March 1, 2014
GENEVA, Ohio -- The Illinois women's track and field team placed ninth at the 2014 Big Ten Indoor Championships, totaling 47 points. Two Illini captured conference titles, and the Orange & Blue recorded times that rank among the best in program history.
"Today our team gave another fantastic effort," said head coach Ron Garner. "We scored in all but one event that we were entered. Again, each athlete performed at their seasonal best or established a new personal best."
The Illini scored 19 points in the 800m, including 10 from champion Ahlivia Spencer. Spencer clocked a personal best time of2:06.53, the second-fastest 800m time in school history, to capture her first conference title. Amanda Duvendack finished third to score six points, while Chloe Schmidt recorded a personal-best to place sixth and add three points for the Illini.
"Yesterday it was big for our program to advance three athletes to the 800m final," said Garner. "Today was awesome! Ahlivia, Amanda, and Chloe created an exciting race and an event that scored 19 points. Their efforts doubled our team score at the time. Ahlivia ran a beautiful race to win, while Amanda finished 3rd and ran like a champion by leading for over 700 meters. Each of them are different, but all three have worked extremely hard this year! When you have three teammates in any race it creates the confidence needed to take a risk and go for the win. Chloe Schmidt had an unbelievable weekend! She ran the 800m three times. Last night in the DMR, the 800m trails and the final. What's significant is that she PR'd each time."
Kandie Bloch-Jones won the high jump title in her first-ever Big Ten Championships. The freshman cleared a height of 1.80m to win the conference crown.
"Kandie Bloch-Jones earned the high jump title," said Garner. "She had to achieve it a different way than she has all season. Her start was a little shaky because of nerves. Again, she worked through it as champions do. It doesn't have to be perfect, but you learn to find a way to get it done! In the end she performed with a national level effort. We'll have to wait and see, but she strengthened her case to participate in this year's NCAA Championships."
Jesica Ejesieme just missed the podium with a fourth-place in the 60m hurdles. The senior clocked a season-best time of 8.30 to score five team points, while Kawanna Brooks set a personal-best en route to a seventh-place finish. Asia Thomas scored points for the Orange & Blue in the 400m with a seventh-place finish.
"Coach Vaught did an excellent job keeping our 60m hurdlers focused for the final," said Garner. "Jesica Ejesieme and Kawanna Brooks got it done in the final. Jesica had a seasonal best finishing fourth and Kawanna PR'd en route to a seventh-place finish. That created momentum as we went into the 800m run."
Alyssa Schneider scored for Illinois in the 5,000m seeded run, clocking a personal-best time of 16:29.43, the second-fastest time in school history. In the final event of the day, the 4x400m relay team of Asia Thomas, Jesica Ejesieme, Ahlivia Spencer and Kymbriona Taylor placed seventh to add two points to Illinois' overall score.
"Alyssa Schneider followed up last night's 1600m leg performance on our 3rd place DMR with a PR in the 5,000 this afternoon," said Garner. "It was a tough race and she was doing well and on the move when she stepped on the inside rail of the track. She stumbled, broke stride for about 10 meters in the last 100 meters, but pushed through the finish line. Tremendous effort! Kymbriona Taylor PR'd in 200m and the 400m leg of the DMR last night. Today she stepped up in the 4x400m relay in a pressure situation when Amanda Duvendack couldn't run because of a foot injury, and she ran a tough leg. We're proud of her! Her teammates are proud of her. She demonstrated her commitment to our team's future success. As coaches, that exactly what we want and are looking for. "
"We started this meet with 12 points returning from last year and we received almost a 50 point effort," said Garner. "We were in striking distance of fifth place. I'd like to say thank you to our coaching staff: Bryan Carrel, Tim Vaught, and Scott Jones for having our athletes prepared to give these types of efforts! Thank you to our athletes who fought hard this weekend. Our team competed with a championship-type effort. We are proud of them and can build from this experience."
Final Big Ten Championships Team Standings
Illinois Saturday Results at 2014 Big Ten Indoor Championships