Senior Angela Bizzarri picked up her third national title with a victory in the 3,000m on Saturday, smashing her own school record with a time of 8:57.40.
March 13, 2010
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Illinois track and field senior Angela Bizzarri is three for her last three in national title races, as she won the 3,000m crown at the NCAA Indoor Championships on Saturday at the Randal Tyson Track Center. The Mason, Ohio native smashed her own school record in the event by 13 seconds with a time of 8:57.40 and edged top-seeded Lisa Koll (8:57.52) of Iowa State by just over a tenth of a second.
"Angela is just a fierce competitor," distance coach Jeremy Rasmussen said. "Angela's first goal was to do better than last year and give herself a chance to win. She did just that and did an excellent job. She worked up to the top three, which broke away from the pack, and then was able to close in the end. It was a great race between two top runners, so give credit to both women."
Bizzarri sat in third behind Villanova's Sheila Reid and Koll for the entire race until the final lap when she sprinted ahead and used her signature kick to beat out Koll by a hair. The victory marks Bizzarri's third national title and ninth All-America accolade, as she also won the 2009 outdoor 5,000m title and the NCAA Cross Country title in the fall. At last year's NCAA Indoor Championships, she placed fourth in the 3,000m race with a time of 9:15.50.
"I knew it would be close at the end, so I just wanted to give myself a chance over the last 400m," Bizzarri said. "I was happy with the outcome not only because of how I competed, but also because it was a great time. I always want to improve with each season and how I race tactically, which I was able to do today."
Bizzarri is the most decorated distance runner in Illinois history and owns seven school records in total, as she tied the mark in the mile and reset her own record in the 3,000m and 5,000m this indoor season. She also was part of the school-record distance medley relay in 2008, boasts the top spot in the outdoor 1,500m and 5,000m and set the 6K cross country record during the 2009 season.
She is only the second Illini ever to win an indoor national title, with Perdita Felicien (60m hurdles) being the other to accomplish the feat in 2002. Bizzarri and Felicien also both share the top spot for most national titles in school history with three.
"Angela is an outstanding athlete, and it just makes me really proud to watch her compete with that toughness," head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said. "It's great to have an athlete on the team like Angela, who can score 10 points for us, and if we put a little bit more together, we can be a top-15 team."
Earlier in the day, senior Aja Evans finished 10th in the shot put, but was among the top-eight US citizens in the field, earning her All-America status for the third straight year at the NCAA Indoor Championships. The Chicago, Ill., wrapped up the championships with her second-best throw of the year, turning in a mark of 53-5 ¾ (16.30m). Florida senior Mariam Kevkhishvili was NCAA champion in the event for the second year in a row with a throw of 61-0 (18.59m).
"Aja's mark was still one of her best throws of the year," Buford-Bailey said. "She was just a couple of centimeters away from being ninth and being a finalist which would have changed things."
The Illinois women's track and field team finished tied for 21st with 10 points from Bizzarri's victory at this weekend's championships to wrap up the indoor season. The Illini will transition to the outdoor season next week, as they head to the Horned Frog Invitational from March 19-20.