Redbird Track & Field and Cross Country Sign Eight for 2013-14

Feb. 14, 2013

NORMAL, Ill. - The Illinois State men’s and women’s track & field and cross country teams signed eight student-athletes to National Letters of Intent (NLI) to continue their academic and athletic careers at Illinois State, as announced by head track & field coach Elvis Forde Thursday.

Coach Forde is excited about what this group can bring to the table, as they enter into their first year in a Redbird uniform.

“This is a pretty solid group overall,” Forde said. “When cross country starts off well, it spins off to the rest of the team as the track season starts. When we look at who we have returning, these individuals will be a good mix and add to the depth of the team. We as a coaching staff feel very confident with this group, even though it is early in our recruiting. We are excited to see how they adapt in their first year. This was definitely a good start to our recruiting for the year.”

The 2013 Illinois State recruiting class includes: Jeff Bajema (Grand Rapids, Mich./Kenowa Hills); Marcelo Burbano (Chicago, Ill./Lane Tech); Ally Christiani (Toronto, Ontario/Loretto Abbey); Jesse Hahne (Danville, Ill./Schlarman Academy); Brendan Hoskins (Heyworth, Ill./University); Morgan Keller (Arlington Heights, Ill./Rolling Meadows); Haley Verbeke (Moline, Ill./Moline Senior); and Rayanne Wright (Ashkum, Ill./Central)

Name Event Hometown School
Jeff Bajema Distance | XC Grand Rapids, Mich. Kenowa Hills
Marcelo Burbano Distance | XC Chicago, Ill. Lane Tech
Ally Christiani Sprints Toronto, Ontario Loretto Abbey
Jesse Hahne Distance | XC Danville, Ill. Schlarman Academy
Brendan Hoskins Distance | XC Heyworth, Ill. University
Morgan Keller Throws Arlington Heights, Ill. Rolling Meadows
Haley Verbeke Distance | XC Moline, Ill. Moline Senior
Rayanne Wright Sprints Ashkum, Ill. Central



Jeff Bajema | Grand Rapids, Mich. | Kenowa Hills

Bajema inks his NLI after having a stellar cross country season in the fall. The Grand Rapids, Mich., native posted 10 first-place finishes, including a career- and season-best time of 15:15.8 in the 5,000-meter race at the Portage Invitational (Oct. 6). The four-time Michigan state qualifier posted his best finish this past fall, turning in a 5,000-meter time of 15:21.1 for fifth place. At the 2012 Foot Locker Midwest Region Championships, Bajema finished 17th with a time of 15:23, against the best of the best in the region.

On the track, Bajema holds personal-best times of 1:59.70, 4:26.34 and 9:27.45 in the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs, respectively. He is a two-time state qualifier, placing as high as ninth this past spring in the 3,200-meter run, with a time of 9:34.76.

Throughout his career at Kenowa Hills, Bajema was a six-time all-conference honoree, two-time conference champion, regional champion and a two-time all-state performer. He is also a member of the National Honor Society.

Coach Forde on Bajema. . .
“He was the find of the cross country season in regards of talent level,” Forde said. “With the performances he has had the past three years, he will help that area of our program grow. When you add him into the mix with the guys we have returning, it will help move our team to the next level. We will count on him a lot and to make a quick contribution to the team. We are excited to see what he does on the track this spring.”

Marcelo Burbano | Chicago, Ill. | Lane Tech

Burbano signs his NLI after three solid years running for Kris Roof at Lane Tech College Prep school in Chicago, Ill. Throughout his tenure with the Indians, Burbano was a two-time state qualifier, finishing as high as first at the 2012 IHSA 3A State Track & Field Finals in the 4x800-meter relay, with a time of 7:47.42. The Chicago, Ill., native holds personal-best times of 4:29.36 and 9:33.61 in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs, and holds a career-best three-mile time of 14:50.78.

He is a three-time conference champion and a junior national qualifier in the 2,000-meter steeplechase, after running a career-best 6:19.32 to win the 2012 Midwest Distance Festival. At the 2012 USA Track & Field Junior National Championships, Burbano finished 17th in the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 10:06.31.

Coach Forde on Burbano. . .
“Marcelo brings a unique set of tools to the table,” Forde said. “He loves running and is not afraid to work hard. He will be an integral part to the team and will work as hard as everyone else. We are excited about him being here. As he works hard and competes, I see him having a good career at Illinois State.”

Ally Christiani | Toronto, Ontario | Loretto Abbey

Christiani signs her NLI after running under the banner of Loretto Abbey Catholic Secondary School and Phoenix Athletics Association in Toronto, Ontario. During her tenure, Christiani was a five-time Toronto District Catholic Athletics Association (TDCAA) Champion in the 200- and 400-meter dashes, combined. In July, she won a gold medal at the 2012 Canadian Junior Track & Field Championships in the 400-meter dash, turning in time of 55.82, after setting a career-best time of 55.44 in the preliminary heat. At the same meet, she finished 8th in the 200-meter dash with a time of 24.85. As a result, she was ranked the No. 2 Canadian Youth Girls 400-meter runner.

She is a three-time qualifier for the Ontario Federation of School Athletics Associations (OFSSA) Championships, placing as high as second in the 400-meter dash in 2011. She was named the 2011 Outstanding Track & Field Athlete of the Year and a three-time member of the Loretto Abbey Honor Roll.

Coach Ford on Christiani. . .
“We have some big shoes to fill next year with the loss of Sade Sealy,” Forde said. “We think that Ally can rise to the level of Sealy as she moves into her freshman season at Illinois State. She has some of the skills that Sealy possesses and can make a quick impact with the returning sprint squad next year. We are very excited about her dreams and goals and what she can bring to the table. We can’t wait to see what she can do right off the bat when she starts here.”

Jesse Hahne | Danville, Ill. | Schlarman Academy

Hahne inks his NLI after running for Tyler Overstreet of Schlarman Academy. The Danville, Ill., native helped his team to back-to-back Vermillion Valley Conference cross country championships and posted a sixth-place finish at the 2012 Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Class A Boys Cross Country Championships, running a three-mile time of 15:03, just one second shy of his personal-best time of 15:02. At the 5,000-meter distance, Hahne holds a personal-best time of 16:01.

On the track, he is a three-time state qualifier in the 3,200-meter run and a state qualifier in the 1,600-meter run. In 2012, he posted his highest finish on the track at the IHSA Class A Boys State Track & Field Championships, finishing 10th in the 3,200-meter run with a time of 10:11.84. He holds personal-best times of 9:42.19 and 4:31.00 in the 3,200- and 1,600-meter runs, respectively. Indoors at the 2012 Illinois Prep Top Times, Hahne ran to a second-place finish in the 3,200-meter run with a lifetime-best time of 9:36.48.

Coach Forde on Hahne. .
“Jesse is an in-state product and anytime you can snag an Illinois runner it’s a big asset,” Forde said. “He has the potential and ability to excel at Illinois State. He has a great work ethic and it will be about getting him in and working hard to get him to the next level.”

Brendan Hoskins | Heyworth, Ill. | University

Hoskins signs his NLI after running for University High School in Normal, Ill. He is a three-time state qualifier in cross country, finishing as high as 20th at the 2012 Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Class AA Boys State Cross Country Championships with a career-best three-mile time of 14:57.

On the track, Hoskins is a state qualifier in the 4X800-meter relay, where the squad turned in a time of 8:03.73 in the prelims. He holds personal-best times of 4:39.20 and 10:03.92 in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs, respectively.

Coach Forde on Hoskins. . .
“We have had the privilege to see Brendan over the years at University High,” Forde said. “He will help us much more in the longer events. Coach Hampton has done a great job with him and he should fit right in, as we have several other runners from U-High. He wants to come in and be the top guy and he has all the potential to do so. We are excited to see what he can do over the course of his career at Illinois State.”
Morgan Keller | Arlington Heights, Ill. | Rolling Meadows

Keller inks her NLI, after competing the last three years for coach Steven Henry at Rolling Meadows High School in Rolling Meadows, Ill. A three-time state qualifier in the throws, Keller holds career-best marks of 43-05.25 (13.24m) and 140-04 (42.78m) in the shot put and discus throws, respectively.

At the 2011 Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Class AAA Girls State Track & Field Championships, Keller posted her highest finish, taking third in the shot put with a mark of 43-05.25 (13.24m), only to follow with a sixth-place finish in the discus with a mark of 124-09 (38.02m). In 2012, she worked herself up to a fourth-place finish at the state meet in the discus, her highest in the event, with a throw of 128-02 (39.08m).

Coach Forde on Keller. . .
“We were lucky to find someone that has the physical attributes and potential to be great in that of Morgan Keller,” Forde said. “She has the willingness and drive to take herself to that next level and we will need that as we try to fill the void left by Brittany Smith after she finishes her senior campaign this season. We look forward to seeing what she can do right off the bat when she arrives on campus in the fall.”

Haley Verbeke | Moline, Ill. | Moline Senior

Verbeke signs her NLI after running for coach Tauwon Taylor at Moline Senior High School. In cross country, Verbeke is a four-time state qualifier, finishing as high as 35th her freshman year with a time of 18:12. She would better that time in 2012, running a personal-best time of 17:28 at the state meet, hosted at Detweiler Park in Peoria, Ill., for 39th place.

On the track, Verbeke is a three-time state qualifier in the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs, finishing as high as 19th at the state meet. She holds a personal-best mile time of 5:19, set April 9, 2012, and a career-best time of 11:13 in the two-mile, set May 15, 2010. In 2011, she ran a leg on the fifth-place finishing 4X800-meter relay squad that finished with a time of 10:32.37 at the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Class AAA Girls Track & Field Championships.

Coach Forde on Verbeke. . .
“Haley had an outstanding cross country season,” Forde said. “With the current depth on our women’s cross country roster, she will fit right in. She is going to have to raise her game and work hard her freshman year and compete for a spot. She is very talented and we look forward to having her on the roster, especially after the successful cross country season she just had.”

Rayanne Wright | Ashkum, Ill. | Central

Wright inks her NLI after a successful junior campaign at Central High School, in which she was crowned the 2012 Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Class A Girls State Champion in the 400-meter dash, running a personal-best time of 56.94. She was the first girl’s state track champion in school history. If that wasn’t enough, she came back in the 200-meter dash to finish fifth in the prelims at the same meet with another personal-best time of 26.75. The two-time state qualifier also holds a personal-best time of 16.9 in the 100-meter hurdles.

Coach Forde on Wright. . .
“Being a state champion, we have some high hopes for Rayanne as she enters her freshman season at Illinois State,” Forde said. “She is very graceful in the way that she runs, almost effortless and that is a tremendous asset to have. She brings boost to a special group of sprinters we already have and next year we can count on her to contribute to the team right away. We are excited to have her join our team and cannot wait to see what she does over the course of her career here.” Your online source for Illinois State Athletics, tickets, TRC gifts, multimedia, Redbird merchandise, photos and more.