The Illinois men's track and field team overcame a tough first two days to place second at the Big Ten Conference meet on Sunday.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A Big Ten championship almost came to fruition for the Illinois men’s track and field team on Sunday.
Which didn’t seem likely after the second day of the conference meet.
Since Illinois stood in last place.
But three individual champions and steady performances in other events helped Illinois rapidly climb up the team standings and finish in second place behind champion Wisconsin.
It’s the highest finish for Illinois at the league meet since 1994, and one many outside the program didn’t exactly anticipate. Especially after the first two days.
“I’m really proud of these guys,” Illinois coach Mike Turk said. “Even though you have a lot of qualifiers and good things coming, it’s hard for a team to believe and stick with it, but we did that. We showed a lot of resiliency and resolve to follow through with what our mission was, and we came really close. These guys ... really put together a great team performance.”
And some great individual performances, too.
Stephon Pamilton won his second straight 400-meter Big Ten title with a personal-best time of 45.91 seconds.
Teammate DJ Zahn finished right behind Pamilton, clocking in at 45.92.
Pamilton added six more points for the Illini with a third-place finish in the 200 (21.12) despite dealing with dehydration issues.
Vanier Josph added a first-place finish in the 110 hurdes, which he won in 13.68. It was his second straight Big Ten title in the event.
“He ran with a lot of confidence,” Turk said. “It was a great hurdles field and for him to take control after a shaky race in (Saturday’s) prelims was really clutch. When you have a champion and leader like that it rubs off on other people.”
Like Joe McAsey.
He supplied the other individual championship for the Illini, winning his first conference title by placing first in the 800 (1:47.73).
“He’s coming off over a year of inactivity with stress fractures, so for him to go through the pain of rehab and come back and dominate against some really good runners is just fantastic,” Turk said. “Knowing that he’s going to be back for a couple more years is very comforting.”