Final exams have occupied the University of Illinois track and field teams all week. On Saturday, the Illini will have a final tuneup for the Big Ten Championships.
The Illinois women and most of their male counterparts will make tracks that day to the UI Outdoor Track Stadium for the Illini Strider Classic. The field events start at 1 p.m., the running events at 2:15.
Purdue has entered men's and women's teams, and Wisconsin-Parkside will send a men's squad.
For most Illini, it's an opportunity to get over the qualifying hump for the NCAA Championships. For all, it's a chance to gear up for the Big Ten meet next weekend.
"The meet should help us make a couple of decisions on which personnel to run in what events at the Big Ten meet," Illini women's coach Gary Winckler said Wednesday. "The other objective is to get some people qualified. Hopefully, we'll have some (weather) conditions that can allow that."
Winckler hopes to see middle-distance runner Tara Mendozza and hurdler Yvonne Harrison attain NCAA-qualifying standards.
Harrison's best in the 400-meter hurdles is 58.74 seconds, which ranks in the top 15 in the nation. The automatic mark is 57.65.
Mendozza has run a 2:09.52 in the 800. The provisional qualifying standard is 2:09.00, the automatic 2:05.00.
"Tara hasn't had the conditions this spring to run a quality mark," Winckler said. "But if we can get a day where it's not raining and the winds not blowing, she has a good chance."
Two Illini women have attained qualifying marks. Benita Kelley has met the automatic standard in the 100 and the provisional mark in the 200. Stacy Ann Grant is provisionally qualified in the high jump.
UI men's coach Gary Wieneke is eager to see his team get back into a competitive mind-set Saturday after final exams.
"It'll be primarily a postfinal shakeout," he said. "They've been in an intense (academic) routine, and most of the guys haven't been in competition for two weeks. It's important for us to change focus now and tune up before we hit the Big Ten wars."
Men's coach Gary Wieneke is sending four Illini to a meet in Clemson, S.C., this weekend in hopes the competition will spur them to NCAA automatic standards. Dorian Green (200), Chris Jones (400) and Matt Klima (400 hurdles) previously qualified provisionally. They'll be joined by Bobby True (800).
Among the Illini at the Strider Classic will be Big Ten long jump leader Babatunde Ridley and Georgetown native Barry Pearman, 12th nationally in the steeplechase.
Cortney Lamb also has come within a fraction of a second of provisionally qualifying in the 1,500. His 3:46.02 clocking last weekend at Stanford, Calif., was a personal best.
In women's swimming: Lutz signs nine.
Nine high school seniors have signed national letters of intent with the UI, head coach Jim Lutz said this week.
The group is led by Darcy Adler of Tucson, Ariz., a senior national qualifier in the 100-yard breaststroke and 50 and 200 freestyles.
Also committing to Illinois were Gloria Martensen of Oak Park Fenwick; Heather Horsley of West Chicago; Kimberly Binneboese of Roselle Lake Park; Molly Busch of Toledo, Ohio; Christine Kalafut of Tampa, Fla.; Kris Lawson of Santa Rosa, Calif.; Stephanie Staples of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; and Noelle Wilhite of Batesville, Ind.
Busch and Wilhite each are junior national qualifiers.
Binneboese is a diver, the others swimmers.
In baseball: Pitcher picks Illini.
Tom Trayser, a 6-foot-2 right-handed pitcher from St. Charles, has signed a national letter of intent with Illinois.
Through Tuesday, Trayser had a 7-0 record with a 2.86 earned run average. In 44 innings, he had struck out 55 batters and walked 17 while allowing 40 hits.
Last spring, Trayser was 4-2 for a 25-15 St. Charles team that reached the Class AA sectional finals. The Fighting Saints were ousted by Aurora Waubonsie Valley, which went on to finish second in the state tournament.
In men's tennis: Four headed to NCAAs.
As many as four Illini could be involved in the individual portion of the NCAA Championships next week in Los Angeles.
Sophomore Gavin Sontag and freshman Cary Franklin both have received automatic bids in the 64-player singles competition. Franklin, 29-10, is ranked 53rd in the nation. Sontag, 30-17, is tied for 77th.
The Illini team of Jerry Turek and Brady Blain, 23-15, is the No. 1 alternate in doubles.