Illinois State’s track and field teams are coming up on their spring seasons and looking forward to traveling, competing and seeing what the members of their teams are made of.
The teams have a hectic schedule underway already, as they have competed in the Indiana Relays, the Keck Invitational, the Meyo Invitational and others, including the MVC Indoor Championships, where Akil Mills, Curt Jensen and Julia Ott took home titles, and the NCAA Championships where Mills and Jensen also took titles.
Looking forward, the two teams will continue to travel and compete in events such as the upcoming Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto, Calif.
“For me, this [Stanford Invitational] meet is definitely a big one, I’m trying to run a fast 10k and try and get a good time to qualify for the regional meet … I’m also trying to run as close to the school record as possible,” distance runner Ryan Rutherford said.
Only six members of the team will be attending the invitational: four women and two men.
“This one is the one to look forward to,” distance runner Rachael Brewer said.
In preparation for Stanford, team members are getting ready both physically and mentally in order to perform their best.
“I’m trying to get into a mental state of being ready because it’s going to be very good competition, it’s probably the most stacked race we’ll be in for the majority of the season apart from Regionals and NCAA’s,” Rutherford said.
“Training, sleeping, eating correctly,” Brewer added. “Making sure you’re not over-thinking it so much because it is supposed to be fun.”
Last year, distance runner Kristen Zillmer attended the Stanford Invitational and is excited to return and compete.
“Last year was a great meet, I ended up opening up my steeple chase … and I ended up running a lot faster than expected, so this year I’m hoping to run about the same as I did last year because I think that will just get the ball rolling in the right direction,” Zillmer said.
Beyond Stanford, team members have set individual as well as team goals, and are keeping their eyes on up-and-coming athletes.
“For the guy’s distance, we just want to get as many guys scoring in the distance events as possible at conference,” Rutherford said. “And for me, personally, I want to try and break the 10k school record this year and possibly the 5k.”
“For girls, we would love to be top three as a team and scoring as many as we can in events distance wise,” Brewer added. “For myself, regionals is a big goal and in general just running fast times … I’ve never been All-Conference outdoors so that’s another goal for me.”
Brewer and Rutherford are optimistic about this season and the future of the two teams based on the talent they have been seeing so far.
Throwers to keep an eye on include Jensen and Mills, as well as Caleb Donaldson and Jianna Williams.
In distance, Jackie Mink is an athlete to watch, as well as sprinters Fabian Norgrove, Anderson Devonish and Ellis Shandel and hurtler Jenna Combs.
With all the changes in personnel on the team, strategies are also being shifted from last year in order for the team to become more successful.
“Not get injured,” Brewer said with a laugh in response to what the team will try to do differently this year.
One difference between this year and next year will be the absence of Zillmer, who is in her final competitive season for the track and field team.
“It’s pretty scary,” Zillmer said. “I’ve run competitively since I was in middle school and every year of college. I’ve never red-shirted or anything so I’ve done it ever since I can remember and for this to be my last hurrah … is a pretty scary thing,” Zillmer said.
Illinois State’s track and field team continue to work hard to gear up for their spring seasons and plan to give every event their all.
The Redbirds will travel to Palo Alto, Calif., for the Stanford Invitational this weekend.