Men set to travel across country to gather more regional spots

By Steve Contorno

With just three meets remaining before the Big Ten Championships, the Illini continue to focus on qualifying as many individuals as possible for regionals. After last weekend’s trip to Georgia, where they qualified for regionals in five events, Illinois will be spreading out to increase its chances of getting more regional spots.

Illinois will send long-distance runners seniors Jason Bill and Tim Hobbs and junior Trent Hoerr to Walnut, Calif., on Friday for the Mt. Sacs invite. Hobbs will then compete at the Pomona Invite in Pomona, Calif., on Saturday. The three hope to focus on one event and clinch a qualifying spot for regionals before they have to compete in multiple events in upcoming meets.

But, the majority of the team will travel to Missouri on Saturday to compete at the Tom Botts Invite. There, the team will match up against Missouri, Iowa, Missouri State and Iowa State. For the second week in a row, the meet will not be scored. But that doesn’t mean the athletes won’t be competing at a top level.

“The focus will be to qualify times for regionals, trying to get the athletes to run better times and basically shaping and molding those teams to be ready for their conference and regional championships,” head coach Wayne Angel said.

“I’m using the meet to evaluate and see where these guys are in terms of are they ready to step up and do what we need them to do at the Big Ten (Championships). Or is it time for us to go back to the drawing board.”

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    With hopes of becoming a force in the Big Ten next season, the team is already looking toward the future. Seniors Tramell Smith and Adrian Walker were both red-shirted for the outdoor season in order to join a stellar incoming recruiting class.

    Adding to the Illini’s roster will be freshman Dominique Worsley. Ranked nationally as one of the premiere sprinters, last week’s Conference Co-Player of the Week, qualified regionally in the 100-meter dash and the 200-meter dash.

    “I think Dominique is going to be one of the best sprinters that’s ever graced the track at the University of Illinois,” Angel said. “I look at him in the future to be one of the top sprinters we’ve ever had . We’ve got a jewel here.”

    But Illinois hasn’t given up on this season. Angel still thinks the team will have a strong showing at Saturday’s meet, which will give them momentum heading into the conference championships.

    “We’re trying to develop and mold a team that we can present at the Big Ten (Championships) that can be effective in scoring,” Angel said.

    “I think this year we’re going to open some eyes.”