Green pulls switch, still wins

Green pulls switch, still wins

   CHAMPAIGN  Dorian Green''s claim to fame as a runner always has been at distances of 200 and 400 meters.

   But after what happened Saturday afternoon at the University of Illinois Armory, the Illini senior may force his track and field coach to rethink how Green is deployed come the postseason.

   "That gives you a little insight into what kind of weapons he has in his arsenal," Gary Wieneke said after Green ran the second-fastest time in UI history in the 60-meter dash.

   Actually, Green came within a whisker of breaking the 10-year-old school record during the Illini''s season-opening meet against Indiana State. The Cleveland native finished in 6.78 seconds, 0.01 behind the mark set by Steve Tyson in 1987.

   And if not for some temporary confusion, Green now might stand atop the all-time UI list in the event.

   "Right at the end of the race my mind was thinking 55 (meters), so I started to slow down a little bit, and then I hurried up and speeded up again," said Green, who has won three Big Ten Conference titles in the 200 and 400 during his career. "So I might have been a little faster."

   Green''s mistake appears understandable. After all, it''s not like he''s a veteran of these short sprints. Green says before Saturday, he had competed in either the 55 or the 60 no more than three times during his collegiate career.

   For training purposes, Illini sprints coach Willie Williams plans to keep running Green in the shortest of sprints for a while. Green, who also won the 200 Saturday in an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 21.56 seconds, probably will be worked gradually into the 400 this indoor season.

   But should the Illini want or need Green to run the 55 at the Big Ten indoor meet or even the NCAA (he''s provisionally qualified), "I would love to," he said. "I''m more than happy to do it because I love to sprint."

   Wieneke won''t rule it out.

   "As always, we pretty well place him in the Big Ten meet where he''s going to do his most good," the UI coach said. "So he''ll do a little bit of everything up until then. ... But I still think he''s a 400-meter man."

   Green also ran on Illinois'' first-place 4 x 400 relay team on a day when the host team won 10 of 16 events in the unscored meet.

   Other UI winners were T.J. Jumper (high jump), Babatunde Ridley (long jump), Chris Jones (400), Tyrone Jones (600), Bobby True (800), Cortney Lamb (mile) and Rob Winfield (3,000). True provisionally qualified for the NCAA meet at 1:50.71.

   "It was a super opening meet from top to bottom," Wieneke said. "I was impressed with the focus and intensity for an opener."

   After his first collegiate meet, Jumper already stands in a tie for fifth place on the all-time UI list for the indoor high jump. The Springfield Lanphier graduate cleared 6 feet, 103/4 inches.

   Jumper, who barely missed at 7-1/4, should have felt right at home Saturday. Just as fans did during his prep career, the Armory crowd rhythmically clapped for Jumper as he readied for his attempts.

   "I guess it just carried over to here," Jumper said. "A lot of the (UI) freshmen knew it from the state meet. I love it. It gets the crowd into it a little bit, and it kind of gets me emotional and ready to go."

   It''s a tradition Wieneke would love to see continued, although the Illini coach couldn''t resist taking a good-natured dig at a portion of his field-events crew.

   "What is it with those pole vaulters and high jumpers?" Wieneke joked. "They''re so flamboyant, they get all this crowd energy coming at ''em."

Kelley shines.

   Benita Kelley ran the fourth-fastest UI time ever in the 60 and was among three Illini to provisionally qualify for the NCAA indoor meet.

   Kelley, who now owns three of the top four times in the event in Illini history, ran a 7.47 in the team''s season-opening dual against Indiana State.

   Other provisional qualifiers were Stacy Ann Grant (high jump) and Collinus Newsome (shot put).

   Kelley, a junior, has thrived in the indoor setting, and Saturday''s performance showed nothing has changed. She also won the 200 and ran on the UI''s first-place 4 x 400 relay.

   "It''s in my head, I guess," said Kelley, who last year set a Big Ten indoor record in the 55 and placed third in the event at the NCAA meet.

   "It''s just a real enclosed space that I can really concentrate on my event and the technique that I need to do."

   Other UI winners were Tisha Ponder (long jump and triple jump) and the distance medley relay, an event Indiana State did not enter.

   Another Illini, Candace Nicholson, won the 600 while competing unattached. Nicholson''s academic eligibility currently is in question, UI coach Gary Winckler said.