Runners confront Big Ten challenge

By Steve Contorno

The Illinois men’s track team commemorated a successful outdoor regular season with their annual banquet Sunday. With 10 athletes qualified for regionals in 11 different events and three Big Ten Athlete of the Week awards, including senior Abe Jones who received his award last week after his performance at the Drake Relays, the Illini had a lot to celebrate. But head coach Wayne Angel is still looking to cap off the season with a run at the Big Ten title.

“Right now we’re in a position to do some great things,” Angel said. “Everyone is healthy and in the right mental state and I just think we’re in line for something special to happen.”

The Illini will face steep competition when the Big Ten Championships begin Friday. The University of Wisconsin has won the conference meet the last four years, and Angel acknowledged, “it’s their meet to lose.” While taking the top spot in the meet is not completely out of the question, Angel is looking for his Illini to compete hard for second place.

“It’s going to be a dogfight for the number two spot,” he said. “Right now, we’re looking at a tough race between Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota for second place.”

While Big Ten coaches have strategically opted not to release their lineups prior to the start of the meet, it’s clear where Jones will be running. The All-American leads the Big Ten by almost two full seconds in the 400-meter hurdles with a time of 50.37.

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Freshmen Dominique Worsley is top three in both the 100-meter dash and 200-meter dash and will most likely compete in at least one of the events. Sophomore Dan Stock, who surprised the competition at the Drake Relays with his third-place finish in the steeplechase, is sixth in the Big Ten in the event. Senior Andre English has put up solid numbers all season despite an injury, and will most likely race in the 110-meter hurdles where he is ranked third in the Big Ten.

But to do well at meet, the Illini will need to get boosts from individuals other than their most consistent three runners – Jones, English and Worlsey. If second place is their goal, the middle distance and long distance runners will need to step up and score some points.

“I think people need to be looking at (junior) Trent Hoerr and (junior) Justin Bill who have been putting up great numbers recently,” Angel said. “I think people really need to keep an eye on (senior) Aaron King. He’s been working hard and it’s his time to shine if he wants it.”

One thing the Illini possesses is depth at almost every level. While the team has some holes in the field and is missing a discus and javelin thrower, in some events the team has a chance to make up for that by scoring multiple points. Sophomores Nick Brown and Pierre Bush are two of the Big Ten’s top five long jumpers, and senior Eric DiSilvestro and sophomore John Adamcyk are in prime position to score points in the pole vault.

Angel hopes all his athletes take advantage of their mostly injury-free season and realize it’s “their time.”

“The biggest keys are we are healthy and times are still dropping,” Angel said. “The coaches have been working hard with everyone and now it’s just up to them to compete at the level I know they can.”