Weight worth it for Klima in comeback

By: Dave Wischnowsky

By: Dave Wischnowsky

By: Dave Wischnowsky

By: Dave Wischnowsky

   CHAMPAIGN  A note to University of Illinois track opponents: Don''t pass Matt Klima. It only makes him angry.

   Klima, a junior sprinter for the Illini, passed everyone Saturday afternoon at the Carle/Busey Invitational in the UI Armory, winning the 600 meters in 1 minute, 18.84 seconds.

   The time was 0.14 short of his own school record in the event.

   "A midseason 1:18?" UI men''s track coach Gary Wieneke asked. "That''s hauling."

   Klima beat runner-up Klint Wescom of Illinois State by 1.16 seconds. Wescom passed Klima midway through the race, catching the Illini''s attention.

   "It kind of made me mad when I got passed," Klima said. "So I just kept my knees high and kicked it in. I feel a lot stronger this year."

   A summer of weight training added 10 pounds to the Oak Park native''s 6-foot-4 frame. He now weighs 180.

   "I really hope it makes a difference," Klima said. "We''ll have to see."

   It already seems to have made some difference. In addition to his near record-breaking performance, Klima ran the anchor leg of the 4 x 400 relay, won by the Illini in 3:14.66.

   Joining Klima: Chris Jones, Tyrone Jones and Bobby True.

   The UI men took first place in seven events and second in six. Seven teams competed, including Big Ten rival Wisconsin. The UI women, competing in a field of nine teams, took three firsts and four seconds.

   Team scores were not kept at the two-day meet.

   "I think from top to bottom we had a super competitive day," Wieneke said. "We''re right about where we want to be. We just need to keep putting steppingstones in place, and this was a good stone."

   Despite having half a dozen athletes out with injuries, women''s head coach Gary Winckler was pleased with his team''s performance.

   "We have more of our better people not running than running right now," he said. "But considering all the people we didn''t have, we did good."

   Benita Kelley and Collinus Newsome paced the depleted women''s squad.

   Kelley won the 200 (24.58) and 60 (7.43).

   Newsome won the shot put with a season-high throw of 50 feet, 11 1/2 inches and was second in the 20-pound weight throw (school-record 53-1).

   "Collinus had probably her best training week ever," UI women''s field events coach Ron Garner said. "And with a good week, good expectations follow."

   Distance runners Cortney Lamb and Barry Pearman also had strong days for the Illini men.

   Lamb won the mile in 4:08.57, beating Pearman''s time of 4:08.68. The two also were part of the first-place distance medley relay (10:03.71), joining Matt Rodriguez and True.

   "I think we''re a legit Big Ten contender," said Pearman, a Georgetown-Ridge Farm product. "If we can stay healthy and work on the little things, we can pull off a championship."

   Next up for both the men and women: the Butler Invite Feb. 8 in Indianapolis.

   The meet is described by Winckler as "a mini-nationals," and will help the Illini prepare for the NCAA Indoor Nationals March 17-18 in Indianapolis.

   Freshman Babatunde Ridley will be among the men running at Butler. The former Class A state track and field champion from Carlinville excelled Saturday, winning the 60 in 8.86.

   "I felt all right," Ridley said. "I had (personal bests) in my events, so you can''t beat that."

   Other UI individual winners: Jason Zieren (3,000 and 5,000) and Chris Jones (400).

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