Eastern’s Track and field teams will compete this Saturday at the Illinois Twilight; an annual meet the Panthers participated in last year with only half of their team.
It will be a scored meet featuring Eastern, Bradley, Butler, DePaul, Illinois State, Northwestern’s women, Illinois-Chicago, Valparaiso, Western Illinois, Indiana and Miami (Ohio) men.
Junior David Johansson was the only first place finisher in the limited Panther squad that went to the Illinois Twilight last year in the men’s javelin.
“The meet was probably not as competitive as most of the meets we have been in thus far,” Eastern coach Tom Akers said. “We’ve had some great weather and I think our kids were just relaxed in a little bit smaller atmosphere and I thought we had many good performances.”
Junior Christian Ilunga-Matthiesen is someone that has stood out to Akers so far since the season went outdoors.
“It has sort of been changing from weekend to weekend. We have kids continue to step up and do good things,” he said. “Christian Ilunga has continued to run very well all three weekends, he sat out big blue, but came back and ran a new PR (Personal Record) at Western Illinois in the 100 there.”
Junior Eric Gordon and freshman Elliot Krause are both also coming off of a good meet, Akers said.
“Eric Gordon had a nice personal record in the javelin, throwing 172 feet and ended up taking third at Western Illinois,” he said. “Did a good job in the pole vault, Elliot Krause our freshman pole vaulter had a very good vault meet, almost cleared 15’1, which would’ve been a PR for him.”
Only minor injuries with no real setbacks happened last weekend, and sprinters Norvel Mohammed and Calvin Edwards will be back with the team after missing the last meet.
“The sprinters are doing really well right now,” Akers said. “We left Norvel and Calvin at home last week because of some minor injuries, but they’re healthy and will be back and hopefully ready to roll this weekend,” he said.
Junior Katie Ryan set a new personal record in the 100-meter hurdles over the weekend.
“Katie Ryan had a great meet this last weekend,” Akers said. “Big breakthrough in the 100 hurdles and ran our fourth fastest time ever. She improved her PR more than half a second and when you’re talking about sprint events, that’s huge.”
Akers said he sees a different personality for each team that comes through each year and thinks this one is still struggling to find that.
“Every team and every year, it has sort of a different personality,” he said. “I think this team is still struggling to find its personality and identity of some sorts. We’re pretty strong across the board, we got to continue to work hard and get better.”
Akers acknowledges that track and field is an individual, but said that the team aspect is what helps you become a better athlete.
“It is an individual sport, but if you have good team unity, that’s something that can really help you as an individual continue to grow and work hard and be encouraging to each other and stuff like that,” he said.
Mark Shanahan can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]