IU track and field traveled to Champaign, Illinois, Friday to participate in the Fighting Illini Big Ten Relays, a non-scoring event in which schools put together multiple relay teams.
Amid the stress of a long individual season, head coach Ron Helmer said the relay format is a breath of fresh air for the highly competitive athletes.
“The relays are a welcome respite from constantly trying to hit a personal record or a qualifying time in an individual event,” Helmer said. “There is something about just taking the baton and trying to beat as many people as possible, while also setting your teammates up to do their thing that brings an enjoyment to competition, which some people don’t learn to appreciate.”
On the first day of competition, the Hoosiers saw several runners compete individually. Senior Rikkoi Brathwaite, the 2021 Big Ten Indoor Track Athlete of the Year, took first place in the 100 meter with a time of 10.65 seconds.
Brathwaite was joined by junior Shaton Vaughn, who won his second event of the season with a time of 51.61 seconds in the 400 meter hurdles.
Three IU runners took second place Friday, with junior Natalie Price finishing the 400 meter in 54.81 seconds, freshman Austin Haskett completing the 3,000 meter steeplechase in a personal best 9:10.86 and freshman Alyssa Skorge crossing her first 3,000 meter steeplechase in 10:44.10.
Saturday was relay day on the track, with field athletes continuing their own respective events, and the Hoosiers took home four different relay victories.
In the women’s 4x800 meter relay, IU ran away from the competition with junior Bailey Hertenstein, senior Kelsey Harris, junior Hannah Stoffel and senior Kelly Mindak finishing in 8:29.07 to claim victory. The time was the second-best in school history and the top overall time in the country this year.
The women also took first in the 4x1,600 meter relay with juniors Sarah Schmitt, Jenna Barker and Maddie Dalton teaming up with freshman Mikaela Ramirez to cross the finish line in 19:33.58.
IU swept the 4x1,600 meter, with the men’s team of junior Dustin Horter, redshirt senior Ben Veatch, junior Arjun Jha and redshirt senior Kyle Mau combining to record a time of 16:41.33 to win the race.
Jha and Veatch added another victory Saturday, as the duo was joined by redshirt senior Teddy Browning and junior Shaton Vaughn to win the distance medal relay in 9:53.84. In the women’s distance medal relay, IU took second place with Hertenstein, Harris, Price and senior Joely Pinkston finishing in 11:10.06.
Helmer said the team appreciated the competition and, like others, was impressed with the performance of his women’s 4x800 team Saturday.
“Our athletes enjoy this part of track and field and ran very well this weekend, in spite of the fact that many Big Ten teams chose not to support the meet,” Helmer said. “We have two more chances moving forward to prepare for championship season.”
The Hoosiers return to Bloomington next weekend for Big Ten Indiana Invitational No. 4 and the Billy Hayes Invitational, with action beginning April 30 and concluding May 1.