Senior Aja Evans advanced to the NCAA Championships for the third consecutive year as an Illini
May 27, 2010
AUSTIN, Texas - Senior Aja Evans opened up competition at the NCAA West Preliminary Round with a successful showing in the shot put, earning a trip to the NCAA Championships in Eugene with a sixth-place finish. A pair of Illini also moved on to Friday's quarterfinal round at the Mike A. Myers Track and Soccer Stadium, with sophomore Latoya Griffith qualifying in the 400m hurdles and fellow sophomore Ryisha Boyd advancing in the 400m dash.
"It was a good day overall," head coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said. "The objective of this meet is qualifying and advancing to the next round. We had some runners accomplish that today, which is what we are trying to do."
Evans notched a mark of 53 feet and 1 ½ inches (16.19m) on her very first throw, which placed her among the top-12 competitors, who advanced to the final meet in Oregon. The Chicago, Ill., native will next compete on Friday, June 11 at Hayward Field in a field of 24 total athletes, with her toss from today ranking 13th-best between the two regions combined. This marks the third consecutive season she has reached the national meet after she competed as a sophomore and earned All-America honors with a fifth-place finish last season.
"The goal was to get the national championships and she did that, so I was happy with how things worked out," field events coach Mike Erb said. "She has been really consistent all year, so we are working around with some different stuff to take her to that next level. We are going to keep at it in practice to take advantage of what she's good at, and once she does that, she can be as good as anyone."
Griffith timed 58.39 in the 400m hurdles and recorded a runner-up finish in her heat, which advances her to Friday's quarterfinal round. She came into the competition as the No. 8 seed and maintained the status quo with the eighth-fastest time of the afternoon. Sophomore Jayla McArthur also ran the 400m hurdles on Thursday, turning in a time of 1:02.06 for 39th-place.
"Latoya ran a solid race," Buford-Bailey said. "She had her race pattern down, which is what we were focusing on, so now we just have to be faster. She is in the top eight right now, but I expect she needs to run a personal best tomorrow to make the top 12 and be in good position for nationals."
Boyd clocked a personal-best time of 53.63 in the 400m and placed third in her heat to automatically qualify to Friday's quarterfinal section. The Brick, N.J., native exceeded expectations by placing 16th overall since she came into the meet seeded 41st in the region. Her time today was over a full second faster than her seed time of 54.68, which she ran at the Illinois Twilight.
"Ryisha ran an awesome race today," Buford-Bailey said. "She held to her race plan and ran strong at the end. It was a huge PR for her, and it needed to come at this time because she has really been trying to lower her time this year."
In the 1,500m senior Shannon Phelan missed advancing to the quarterfinal by one spot, as she came in 25th with a time of 4:26.29. Phelan was just .15 seconds shy of moving on to the next round, with Minnesota's Nikki Swenson edging her for the 24th and final spot with a time of 4:26.14.
"Shannon had a good race and ran close to her personal best," Buford-Bailey said. "She was one spot away from making it, but still finished out her senior year strong."
Other Illini performances included a pair of Illini in the 400m, with sophomore Ashley Kelley placing 32nd with a time of 54.74 and freshman Marissa Golliday coming in 36th at 54.93. Freshman Kayla Smith clocked a time of 12.02 to finish 37th in the 100m while senior Elizabeth Boyle posted a time of 36:26.97 in the 10,000m and placed 35th.
Illinois resumes action at the NCAA West Preliminary Round on Friday, highlighted by the first round of the 200m and 100m hurdles along with the long jump, 3,000m steeplechase and quarterfinal of the 400m and 400m hurdles. Live results along with a full recap can be found on fightingillini.com while live updates will be made at twitter.com/IlliniTrackXC.
Illinois Thursday Results at NCAA West Preliminary Round
Q/q = qualified for Friday's quarterfinal
* advances to NCAA Championships in Oregon
Shot Put (Prelims)
6. Aja Evans 53-1 ½ (16.19m)*
1,500m (First Round)
25. Shannon Phelan 4:26.29
100m (First Round)
37. Kayla Smith 12.02
35. Elizabeth Boyle 36:26.97
Illinois Remaining Schedule at the NCAA West Preliminary Round
(All times Central)
Friday, May 28
5 p.m. 100m Hurdles First Round (Tamika Robinson)
5:45 p.m. 400m Quarterfinal (Ryisha Boyd)
7 p.m. Long Jump (Kawanna Brooks)
7:15 p.m. 400m Hurdles Quarterfinal (Latoya Griffith)
8 p.m. 200m First Round (Melissa Bates, Kayla Smith)
9:10 p.m. 3,000m Steeplechase (Madeline Aufmann, Chantelle Groenewoud)
Saturday, May 29
4 p.m. High Jump (Kendall McCaugherty)
6 p.m. 4x100m Relay Quarterfinal (Tamika Robinson, Ashley Kelly, Kayla Smith, Melissa Bates)
7:05 p.m. 100m Hurdles Quarterfinal
7:35 p.m. 200m Quarterfinal
8:05 p.m. 5,000m Semifinal (Angela Bizzarri)
9:25 p.m. 4x400m Relay Quarterfinal (Ryisha Boyd, Ashley Kelly, Latoya Griffith, Melissa Bates)