Mills and Williams Win Gold on Day One of Championships
Rutherford and Mascari run a tight race. Photo by Jake Haines
Rutherford and Mascari run a tight race. Photo by Jake Haines

May 16, 2014

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CARBONDALE, Ill.Akil Mills and Jianna Williams started off the weekend strong for the Redbird track and field squads, as they both took home the gold medal in the hammer throw competition Friday afternoon at the Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships.

Going into the third round, Mills sat in second-place with a best mark of 60.25 meters. He moved himself into the lead with a toss of 60.98 meters in the third round, and solidified his victory with a mark of 63.40 meters (208-00) in the fourth round of competition. Wichita State’s Weston Cottrell finished second, tossing a mark of 62.65 meters (205-06) in the sixth and final round.  Curt Jensen also scored points for the Redbird men in the hammer throw, finishing fifth overall with a mark of 58.44 meters (191-09), coming on his final attempt.

Williams was named the first individual conference champion of the weekend, as she tossed a career-best mark of 57.74 meters (189-05) in the third round of the women’s hammer throw. She would not surpass that mark, but it was just enough to give her the victory, as Ashley Gaston of Southern Illinois finished second with a heave of 57.06 meters (187-02).

“It was a nice win for Jianna,” head track and field coach Elvis Forde said. “Jianna came into meet leading the conference in that event. I think it is amazing that she has won a championship this early, especially because it took Brittany (Smith) a long time. The competitors have changed, but nevertheless, it was 10 points she got for us. I am very happy for her, and I hope this gives her some confidence in the shot put. We followed that up with Akil, who also had tough competition. He was pushed by the young men from Wichita State and Southern Illinois, but that was good for Akil. He knows that if he wants to advance to the regional he will have to perform at a higher level, but Coach Bennett has done a fantastic job, and hopefully we will have some good performances in the shot put tomorrow as well.”

Julia Ott also earned All-Valley honors on the day, as she finished third with a best mark of 3.84 meters (12-07.25). Ott cleared her first two marks of 3.74 and 3.84 meters with ease, vaulting over the bar on her first attempt for each. However, she could not leap over 3.94 meters, earning her a third-place medal.

On the track, Jeff Bajema and Aidan Askin both advanced to the 1,500-meter finals, as Bajema clocked a tenth-place time of 3:54.29 and Askin finished 12th with a time of 3:55.24. The top-five finishers from each heat advanced to the finals along with the next two-best times.

Three Redbird women advanced to the final round of the 1,500-meter race, as Kristen Zillmer, Ashley Kamin and Kimi Sanden will each vie for All-Valley honors on Sunday. Zillmer finished seventh overall with a time of 4:32.44, while Kamin clocked a time of 4:36.77. Sanden was the last racer in, as she finished 12th in the field with a personal-best time of 4:39.27.

Shandel Ellis will be the lone Redbird racing for a Valley title in the 200-meter race, as she finished second overall with a time of 24.29 behind All-American Katie Wise of Indiana State who clocked a time of 23.94. However, no Redbird men advanced in the men’s 200-meter dash, as Anderson Devonish finished in the top-spot for ISU with an 11th-place time of 22.01.

Despite battling a foot injury, Rachael Brewer ran a tough, courageous 10,000-meter race, finishing sixth overall with a time of 36:05. She held her own with the top group through 5,000-meters, but came up just shy of a top-five finish.

“Sometimes you sing praises and put kids on a pedestal, but nobody can fault Rachael’s courage, fault Rachael’s strength and determination,” Forde said. “She could have easily told Coach Bovee and me that she was hurt and did not want to run. For the last couple of weeks or so, she has hardly done anything. She was walking on crutches minutes before she touched the start line, and that takes courage. It takes determination, and it takes a person of Rachael’s character to do something special like that. I commend her, and I have a deep respect for her doing that event and enduring the pain that she did the whole course of the race. She wants to help her team and we really do appreciate that.”

Ryan Rutherford narrowly missed a conference title, as the junior distance runner came up short to Indiana State’s All-American and 2013 MVC Cross Country Champion John Mascari. Rutherford and Mascari were neck-and-neck with five laps remaining, but as the lap count dwindled Mascari started to pull away with two laps to go, claiming the gold medal in the end with a meet-record time of 29:25. Rutherford finished 10 seconds behind Mascari with a time of 29:35, which was also under the former meet record time of 29:37. Rutherford will return to the track, as he will look for revenge in the men’s 5K.

Kevin Fisch will kick things off for the Redbird squad, as Saturday’s competition begins with the multi events at 10:30 a.m. Women’s shot put is slated for a 3 p.m. start, while the running events are set to begin at 5 p.m.

Follow @ISU_Track_XC for live updates, and results will be posted at the conclusion of the event on www.GoRedbirds.com.

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