Redbird Track and Field Opens Season with Home Meet
Dec. 5, 2008
NORMAL, Ill. - With three months of training and preparation the Illinois State men's and women's track and field teams are poised to begin their indoor season at the Early Bird Open Saturday, inside Horton Field House. The field events are scheduled to get underway at 10 a.m., with the running events beginning at 10:30 a.m.
A total of 620 student-athletes will be competing at the event with Illinois State hosting teams from Concordia, Illinois Wesleyan, Loyola, Northern Illinois (women), Saint Louis, St. Ambrose, St. Xavier, University of Indianapolis and Valparaiso.
Illinois State returns 18 women and 17 men Missouri Valley Conference point scorers to its 2008-09 teams. The squad also includes 30 freshmen (13 men and 17 women) and a sophomore transfer student. Head coach Elvis Forde is excited to see how his young team will perform.
"This meet is always a good start to our season, and we just hope that this is just enough competition to get our feet wet," said Forde. "I hope that the athletes that are competing start to prepare themselves and become more focused in regards to what the season ahead is going to present them. I keep reminding them that the Missouri Valley Conference is a very difficult league, and that every time we compete, we have to start focusing on the skills that we need to improve on each and every day to make progress toward the indoor Valley Championships at the end of February (Feb. 28-March1).
"It is all about preparation, how well they take care of themselves and how much they believe in what they have done over the fall. This weekend is about mastering the skills that we have been working on all fall."
The ISU distance runners will not be competing in the first track and field meet of the season, as they are coming off their respective cross country seasons.
The throwers will begin the Early Bird Open with the men's weight throw. The men's and women's throwers have young squads, but will bring a wealth of experience and could prove to be one of the most explosive areas of completion.
"This is an area (throwing) that is growing for us, and we have hopes that Alex Adams can be outstanding in the shot put," said Forde. "Colin Fane has really improved in his years here, and we are really going to depend on guys like Colin to continue to improve."
Senior captain Samantha Springer will lead the women's throwers as she returns as a two-time regional qualifier. The Tremont, Ill., native will be competing in the shot put Saturday.
"We have Tori Ziegler, a newcomer and Sam, our veteran, throwing for the women," said Forde. "We have seen some improvement in that area from both of them. I think that as the season goes on, and as Tori's confidence grows, she will be throwing the weight in the 46-to 47-foot range. I also believe that since Sam has been through the battle before, she is going to be able to raise her game to the highest possible level."
The high jump event returns two-time All-Missouri Valley Conference performer Amanda Albrecht, as well as sophomores Becky Anderson and Caitlin Roberts. On the men's side, sophomores Drew Holl and Chris Kirtz return to the event, with Holl returning as the all-conference performer.
"We are full of high jumpers, and that young group comes back again with Amanda, Caitlin and Becky," said Forde. "Also Morgan (Schaefer) is jumping really well, so that foursome is doing really well and will continue to get stronger as the season goes on. We expect some big things from them because of how they did last year."
"Right now, we have a number of injuries (injured student-athletes) that can run, but we are not going to run them," said Forde. "Meaka Brents and Tia Harvey are not going to be running this weekend. I think that Meaka is going to have a wonderful season once she gets healthy in regards to the 60 and 200. We are holding out right now because she is banged up a little bit, and we will save her for the rest of the season."
On the men's side, junior Sam Watts and freshman Kayode Adegoke will look to remedy the short sprints, an area that suffered from injury last season. Freshmen Josh Pope and Kendrick Smith will bring additional points and strength in the 60-meter hurdles an event that has been absent from the Redbird men's track and field roster since 2002.
"We are going to have to count on Kayode Adegoke quite a bit," said Forde. "He has been impressive in practice to this point, so I think that he is going to have a very good season based on what he has done in high school and where he is today. Sam Watts is also going to complement him well in that event this season, and we are expecting to see some good performance from the two of them."
Injury-ridden during the 2008 track and field season, senior middle distance runner Kim Smudde is expected to have an impact in the 800-meter run now that she is back with good health.
"Kim is looking pretty good in her training, and hopefully, that can translate onto the track," said Forde. "Jil Kerkman is also looking pretty good in the 800-meter run, and hopefully, she can realize the difference between high school and college and jump up and make herself a competitor.
The 2008 Redbird Open will start at 10 a.m. Saturday from Horton Field House. Tickets will go on sale at 9 a.m. from Gate 2 in Horton Field House. Adult tickets are $6 and youth and ISU student tickets will be sold for $3.