Former Illini and Centennial standout qualifies for World Championships.
DES MOINES, Iowa — Gia Lewis-Smallwood, a former Illinois and Centennial standout, is the best women’s discus thrower in the U.S. Next, it might be the world.
Lewis-Smallwood claimed her first national discus title Sunday at the USA Outdoor Championships and advanced to her second IAAF World Championships, which are scheduled Aug. 10-18 in Moscow.
“I’m so excited for Gia,” Illini coach Tonja Buford-Bailey said of Lewis-Smallwood, who set a Drake Stadium record with her toss of 213 feet, 8 inches. “She continues to show that she is one of the best in the world. Coach (Mike) Turk felt that she was ready to throw very well. He has done a great job with her, and her progression each year proves that. Our alumni are making us very proud.”
Lewis-Smallwood will be joined in Moscow by Whitney Ashley and Elizabeth Podominick.
“Gia has had a terrific season and had an awesome performance (Sunday),” Turk said. “She dominated the competition with a big first throw. Her preparation and execution was right on. This was the first step to her achieving her season goal of making the World Championship final. She definitely achieved that mission. I am so happy for her win. She just keeps getting better.”
Riley ready for worlds. Former Illini Andrew Riley defended his 110-meter hurdles title at the Jamaican World Championships Trials and advanced to his second IAAF World Championships.
“It’s great to see Andrew defend his Jamaican national title,” Turk said in Des Moines. “He is having a great season. I know Coach Bailey will have him ready for the World Championships, and he will do very well. Andrew continues to be a great representative of the University of Illinois while he competes on the world stage.”
Riley finished in 13.35 seconds.
“It’s great that Andrew was able to make his second World Championship team,” Buford-Bailey said in Des Moines. “He trained really hard this season and remained focused the whole time. The first post-collegiate year is a tough one, and he held his own very well. I’m really proud of him.”