Former Illini Williams goes global

Former Illini Williams goes global

CHAMPAIGN – Paris and the Caribbean have replaced Purdue and Columbus on Tonya Williams' track and field itinerary.

The former Illini hurdling star, who ran out of eligibility last spring, has been racking up the frequent flier miles ever since.

"Paris ... Switzerland, the Bahamas, Monaco, Zurich," said Williams, never one to pass up an all-expenses-paid vacation.

Williams will graduate next month with a degree in speech communications, but it's track she hopes to make her living at.

She still trains with her old teammates in town and gets to as many big meets as she can. She's booked to go to Japan to hurdle for a few days next month, and will compete in the U.S. Championships in June.

That's the big one. The top three in each event make the World Championship team, second in stature only to the Olympics. Williams will give it a go in the 400-meter hurdles, which she ended 1996 ranked fifth in the U.S. in.

"If I can get up there to the top or near the top, I'd like to keep doing this," she said. "If I couldn't run anymore, I'd be pretty satisfied with what I've done. Well, maybe a little upset. I'd like to make it to the Olympics, at least once."

For a few seconds Saturday, Williams feared her track days might be done when she cramped up and screamed in pain during the 200-meter run. She quit mid-race and called it a day.

"Little bitty meet like this, I don't want to get injured," she said.

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