Senior Aja Evans repeated as a Drake Champion in the shot put and continued her undefeated season.
April 23, 2010
DES MOINES, Iowa - Senior Aja Evans won the shot put title at the Drake Relays for the second straight year, recording the top toss of 51-7 (15.72m) on Friday at Drake Stadium. Illinois delivered solid performances throughout a rainy day of competition, as they also advanced to Saturday's finals in three other events.
"Despite the conditions, we got what we needed to get accomplished," head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said. "Aja got another Drake Relays win and has an undefeated season so far. The team really got pumped up after attending the Hall of Fame ceremony last night, and everyone is really excited to get out there and run tomorrow."
Last year, Evans won the event with a mark of 52-11 ½ (16.14m), while this year she was able to beat out the 24-person field despite posting her shortest distance of the season thus far. The three-time Big Ten Field Athlete of the Week has picked up victories in the shot put at all four of her meets this season and came into the weekend ranked second in the NCAA with her mark of 55-9 (16.99m) from last week.
The Illini qualified for finals in three other events, including a pair of relays. The foursome of junior Cheria Morgan, sophomore Ashley Kelly, freshman Kayla Smith and junior Tamika Robinson clocked the fourth-fastest time (45.73) in the 4x100m relay to advance to tomorrow's finals scheduled for 4:55 p.m. Texas-El Paso (44.71) turned in the fastest mark in preliminaries followed by Baylor (44.98) and Louisiana Tech (45.71).
In the 4x400m relay, the team of sophomores Ryisha Boyd, Jayla McArthur and Latoya Griffith and junior Melissa Bates timed 3:38.19 to place fifth and qualify for the finals at 5:57 p.m. tomorrow. The Orange and Blue finished behind only Mississippi in their heat, where the Rebels ran the fastest preliminary time of 3:36.57.
"We ran a really strong 4x100m relay and the 4x400m looked really good," Buford-Bailey said. "We are going into the finals in good position in both of those relays."
Illinois' other individual qualifier came in the 100m hurdles, where Robinson ran the third-fastest time (13.86) of the day. She won her heat by .15 seconds, finishing in front of the event's final qualifier, Meredith Hayes (14.01). All eight qualifiers will vie for the event crown tomorrow at 2:56 p.m.
"Tamika won her heat pretty convincingly, so it will be a pretty interesting race tomorrow," Buford-Bailey said.
Four Illini competed in the 100m dash, with Robinson just missing the finals by two hundredths of a second after a ninth-place finish and a time of 12.06. Smith (12.23) and Morgan (12.24) were neck and neck in their heat while placing 14th and 15th overall, while Kelly came in 20th at 12.34.
"In the 100m, three of our athletes happened to all be in the same heat that had a 2.2 headwind, so that made it a little rough for us," Buford-Bailey said. "We didn't get the best marks there because of that, but all the other races went really well for us."
Illinois' 4x200m relay of Morgan, Smith, freshman Kawanna Brooks and Bates finished fifth with a time of 1:37.19. The quartet ran in the event's fastest heat, which included the top three relays in Texas El-Paso (1:34.20), Baylor (1:35.27) and Louisiana Tech (1:36.44).
The only other Illini to compete on Friday was sophomore Kendall McCaugherty, who placed third in the high jump with a leap of 5-7 (1.70m).
Illinois action at the Drake Relays continues tomorrow morning with senior Alecia Beckford-Stewart and Brooks competing in the long jump at 9:30 a.m. Three-time national champion Angela Bizzarri is slated to run the 1,500m Special Invitational at 3:38 p.m.
Illinois Schedule at Drake Relays
Saturday, April 24
9:30 a.m.......Long Jump final (Alecia Beckford-Stewart, Kawanna Brooks)
12:30 p.m.....Triple Jump final (Alexandria Smith, Kawanna Brooks)
1:39 p.m.......400m Hurdles final (Latoya Griffith, Jayla McArthur)
2:56 p.m.......100m Hurdles final (Tamika Robinson)
3:38 p.m.......1,500m Special Invitational final (Angela Bizzarri)
4:55 p.m.......4x100m Relay final (Cheria Morgan, Ashley Kelly, Kayla Smith, Tamika Robinson)
5:12 p.m.......1,500m final (Chantelle Groenewoud, Shannon Phelan)
5:57 p.m.......4x400m Relay final (Ryisha Boyd, Jayla McArthur, Latoya Griffith, Melissa Bates)