Winter sports capture titles, break records, and earn top seeds
The Illinois State women’s track and field team were the runners-up at the 2017 Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Indoor Track and Field Championships, as they scored a total of 119 points. The men finished fourth with a total of 92 points.
Illinois State had 15 All-Valley performances, six individual champions, and one NCAA national qualifier overall for the 2017 MVC Championships. Freshman Derrius Rodgers punched his ticket to nationals in the 60-meter dash, as he broke the school record with a time of 6.64.
At the 2017 NCAA Division I Indoor Track and Field Championships, Rodgers notched second team All-American with a time of 6.77 in the 60-meter dash, finishing 13th.
Rodgers also captured All-MVC in the 200-meter dash, as he finished second with a time of 21.50. Rodgers and D’Jenne Egharevba were the first recipients of the MVC Freshman of the Year Award. Egharevba captured a MVC title in the 200-meter dash, finishing first with a personal-best time of 24.26.
Sophomore Amanda McClain went two-for-two on the weekend in the women’s long jump and the 400-meter dash. McClain captured her personal-best long jump with a mark at 6.17m (20-03.00), which a new school record. She notched her second MVC title in the women’s 400-meter dash with a personal-best time at 54.64.
McClain tallied her third MVC title in the women’s 4×400-meter relay, as Ally Christiani (57.5) Whitney Ward (56.1) McClain (53.9) Ashleigh Wilson (54.7) won by a landslide with an impressive time of 3:42.32, while the second-place finisher, Indiana State, finished with a time at 3:47.37.
Junior Ben Montgomery had a spectacular performance in the men’s 400, as he captured his first MVC title with a time of 47.57.
Montgomery notched his second MVC title in the men’s 4×400, as the quartet of Jordan Wilkerson (50.7), Justin Agustin (49.8), Rodgers (48.2), and Montgomery (47.8) won with a time of 3:16.64.
The Illinois State men’s basketball team also had a season for the record books, breaking the program record for most victories in a season, and having a conference record of 17-1, which is the best conference record in program history. The Redbirds have gone unbeaten on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena and have not lost at home since January 15, 2016. The team’s 37.7 percent field goal defense ranks fourth nationally and their average of 61 points allowed per game ranks sixth nationally. The Redbirds also earned the top seed in the National Invitation Tournament for the first time in program history.
Senior guard Paris Lee earned top honors in the Missouri Valley Conference, taking home MVC Player of the Year and MVC Defensive Player of the Year, while also being named to the All-MVC First Team. Lee is the all-time steals leader for Illinois State, with 244, and is the NCAA active career leader in the category. He also surpassed head coach Dan Muller for the all-time school record for career games started with 123 starts.
Muller was named the Missouri Valley Conference Coach of the Year, becoming the fourth Redbird head coach to win the prestigious honor. He is just the sixth coach in program history to win 100 games or more and just the third coach to win 57 or more games in conference play. In each year as head coach at Illinois State, Muller’s teams have finished with a better MVC record and higher conference finish than the previous year. He has also led the Redbirds to four victories over Top-25 ranked opponents, tied for the most-ever by an Illinois State head coach.
In total, Muller has mentored 11 All-Missouri Valley Conference selections (two first team, six second team, and three honorable mention), six MVC All-Defensive team members, four MVC All-Newcomer Team picks, and one MVC All-Freshman Team selection.
The Redbirds also earned the top seed in the National Invitation Tournament for the first time in program history and hosted the first round, where they defeated University of California-Irvine. Illinois State’s historic season came to an end when the Redbirds hosted Central Florida in the second round of the NIT, where they were defeated by one point in the final seconds.