Redbirds Are Wichita Bound for 2012 Valley Championships

May 10, 2012

2012 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Championship Central

NORMAL, Ill.-The Illinois State men's and No. 15-ranked women's track & field teams head to Wichita, Kan., Thursday, to compete in the 2012 State Farm Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships, Friday, May 11 through Sunday, May 13 at Cessna Stadium.

The women enter the meet with a pre-championship rank of second in the Valley, tallying 54 votes, two of which were first-place votes. The only team ahead of the Redbirds is Wichita State, recording 60 votes in all, five of which were first place. As for the men, they sit in fifth (19), behind Northern Iowa (31), Southern Illinois (34) Indiana State (40) and Wichita State (49).

Both teams enter the championships after stringing together a number of solid performances throughout the season. The performances started to take form at Illinois State's lone home meet of the season, where Leigh Petranoff broke the school, Missouri Valley and Redbird Track & Field Complex record in the javelin with her toss of 173-03 to win the event and jump to No. 3 on the national best list.



The Sea Ray Relays (April 13) followed, with many Redbirds setting new personal and school marks in their respective events. Tim Glover highlighted the meet, throwing a career-best and Missouri Valley record of 266-09 (81.31m) in the javelin, winning the event by over 50 feet. Brittany Smith followed with two outstanding performances of her own, throwing an Illinois State record in the shot put (58-09.50) before claiming the discus title with a mark of 180-11, the second-best in Redbird history. For their performances, both earned the Tony Wilson Award for the best male and female field athlete at the meet.

The excitement didn't stop there as Rachelle Harbert reached new heights in the pole vault, lifting herself over the bar set at 12-09.50, setting a new Illinois State record in the process.

The Mt. SAC Relays followed, featuring the women's distance crew. Here, Aisha Praught ran the second-fastest time on the day between all sections in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, winning her heat with a time of 9:51.30, which ranked first in the nation and sixth in the world at that time. That time crushed the previous Illinois State record (10:23.15) by 32 seconds and the Valley record (10:12.28) by 21 seconds. Kristen Zillmer also ran the steeple, posting a career-best time of 10:30.43. As a result, four Redbirds rank in order atop the MVC best list in the event.

The Redbirds then honed their skills at the prestigious Drake Relays (April 28) where the distance women shined again. The distance medley relay team of Sade Sealy, Jil Kerkman, Zillmer and Praught set a new Illinois State record in the event, winning in a sprint finish against Nebraska with a time of 11:19.14, for their first Drake Relays title in the event. Smith followed in the hammer throw, tossing a school-record mark of 214-02, taking second in the event. It was Curt Jensen who stole the show, throwing the shot 60-10.50 against the top throwers in the nation, crushing the school record by a full foot and moving him up the MVC and national best lists.

As one last tune up before the conference championships, the Redbirds headed to Bloomington, Ind., for the Billy Hayes Invitational (May 4). Mat Smoody ran the fastest 800-meter run of his career, posting his second consecutive sub-1:50.00 time of 1:49.78, while Sealy ran the fastest 400-meter dash of her career (53.32), reclaiming the top-spot in the Valley by four hundredths of a second. Coty Kramer followed with the fastest 400 of his career, taking third with a time of 48.02. The women's 4X100-meter relay of Shandel Ellis, Printassia Johnson, Alia McAfee and Sealy also posted their fastest time on the season, recording a time of 46.39.

To date, three Redbirds have punched their tickets to Eugene, Ore., to compete in the 2012 US Olympic Trials in hopes of making the 2012 London Olympic Team. Glover did it in the javelin, Smith in the shot put and Praught in the steeplechase. Smith also hit the provisional standard in the hammer, while Petranoff did so in the javelin, which would allow them to compete in those events if the allotted number of competitors isn't filled by those who hit the A standard.

Fans can follow the Redbirds live this weekend on on the 2012 MVC Championships Central page which features a live video broadcast and live Twitter updates via @ISU_Track_XC. Supporters can also follow via @ISURedbirds and live results which are also posted on the championships page. Results and full recap of each day's events will be available as well on the same page. Your online source for Illinois State Athletics, tickets, TRC gifts, multimedia, Redbird merchandise, photos and more.