Riley's ready to defend
DES MOINES, Iowa — When Illinois' Andrew Riley clocked 13.45 seconds in the 110-meter hurdles at the 2010 NCAA Championships, he was rewarded with a national title.
What does a 13.37 get Riley these days? A spot in the final and a chance to repeat the feat.
The Illini junior posted the second-fastest time of his career Thursday at Drake Stadium and had the second-best time behind Texas Tech's Omo Osaghae (13.32).
"Andrew had a great start and was in the lead over the first three hurdles," UI interim men's coach Mike Turk said. "He looked very comfortable in qualifying for the final."
Riley was among the leaders at the start but was edged at the finish by Osaghae. Riley and Osaghae each clocked 13.32 at the NCAA West Preliminary Round.
If Riley is victorious in Saturday's final, he would become the seventh repeat winner in school history and the first since George Kerr claimed the 880-yard NCAA crowns in 1959 and '60.
In the 200-meter semifinal, Illinois' Stanley Azie placed sixth in his heat in 20.94 and did not advance.
With the new USTFCCCA system, Azie earned second-team All-America honors after finishing 14th overall.
"Stanley also had a great start and ran an excellent turn," Turk said. "Overall, it was a solid race for him but just not quite enough. He still has two finals to run, and I know he will step up with an outstanding effort."
The Illini men's team had four of its five entries reach finals. Azie (100 meters) and senior Cody Wisslead (400-meter hurdles) are scheduled to compete Friday.
"Overall, I am very happy with where we are," Turk said. "We have everyone we brought running in a final, so that creates a special opportunity for the guys to leave their mark on the season."
In women's action, UI senior Chantelle Groenewoud recorded a personal best of 10 minutes, 4 seconds and advanced to the 3,000-meter steeplechase final.
"It was really exciting for Chantelle to run a 10-second PR at the national meet," distance coach Jeremy Rasmussen said of Groenewoud, whose previous best was 10:14.08 at the NCAA West Preliminary Round. "She has been here twice before, and the last time she missed the final and was the first person out. It is great to have her advance and get this experience in her senior season."
Groenewoud used a late kick to post the fastest time of her career, which ranks second in school history.
"She had the fastest person at the meet in her section, so her heat ran pretty fast," Rasmussen said. "She followed the plan exactly like we talked about."
Illinois senior Tamika Robinson (100 hurdles) and sophomore Stephanie Morgan (1,500) did not advance Thursday.
Robinson finished 18th in 13.51, and Morgan was 19th in 4:25.44.