Senior Aja Evans won the shot put title for the third straight meet, tallying a season-best throw of 55-9 (16.99m) to capture the top spot at the LSU Alumni Gold Invitational.
April 17, 2010
BATON ROUGE, La. - Senior Aja Evans won the shot put title for the third straight meet, tallying a season-best throw of 55-9 (16.99m) to capture the top spot and lead the No. 24 Illinois women's track and field team at the LSU Alumni Gold Invitational. The Orange and Blue posted a number of personal bests at the Bernie Moore Track Stadium and also had three athletes win the B section of their events, with junior Melissa Bates in the 200m, sophomore Alexandria Smith in the triple jump and freshman Kawanna Brooks in the long jump.
"We keep getting better each week, so we are excited about where we are at," head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said. "We are leaving the meet with almost everyone running a personal or season best, which is always a positive sign."
Evans held the third-best throw in the country heading into the weekend and improved on that mark, coming just two inches shy of breaking her own school record in the event (55-10 ½). Smith won the `B' triple jump with a season-best bound of 39-7 (12.06m) while Brooks took the top spot in the `B' long jump with a personal-best leap of 19-7 (5.97m) and also placed third in the triple jump at 39-0 ½ (11.90m). Bates posted a season-best time of 24.21 in her 200m section victory.
"Aja keeps expecting more and more of herself and continues to put together great meets each week," Buford-Bailey said. "Kawanna, Alexandria and Melissa also put together nice showings in their events and continued to improve."
The 4x100m relay of junior Cheria Morgan, sophomore Ashley Kelly, freshman Kayla Smith and junior Tamika Robinson recorded a season-best time of 44.64 in their runner-up finish behind LSU (43.54). Robinson also was second in the 100m hurdles with a time of 13.31 behind only Olympian Lolo Jones and posted a personal best of 11.67 to finish fifth in the 100m.
"The 4x100m put together a great performance, and Tamika is running more confident and staying consistent," Buford-Bailey said. "She beat out a number of great athletes in a stellar field in the hurdles and had a personal best in the 100m."
Sophomore Latoya Griffith took third in the 400m hurdles with a time of 59.18 and ran the third leg of the 4x400m relay, which placed fifth with a time of 3:36.78. Kelly bettered her personal best in the 400m by two seconds and placed fifth with a time of 53.55 while sophomore Ryisha Boyd (54.68) and freshman Marissa Golliday (54.76) finished seventh and eighth, respectively, in the race.
At Purdue's Dave Rankin Invitational, a handful of Illini distance runners competed and turned in impressive performances. Freshman Courtney Yaeger (17:42.38) grabbed second in the 5,000m, and junior Shannon Phelan (2:11.60) took third in the 800m while classmate Ashley Thompson (4:37.36) was third in the 800m. In the 3,000m steeplechase, freshman Madeline Aufmann ran 11:00.00 and finished fourth in her first race of the season. In total, the Orange and Blue posted seven personal bests on the Dave Rankin Track.
"This meet really adds confidence to our team and helps them see how their hard work is paying off," distance coach Jeremy Rasmussen said. "It was good to see so many personal bests as we continue to prepare for the championship season."
Next week, Illinois will head to the 101st annual Drake Relays from April 22-24 for three days of competition in Des Moines, Iowa at Drake University.