Mon, May 26: Illini men Truly golden

   CHAMPAIGN  Bobby True was smoldering mad. And Bobby True''s track coach hadn''t the slightest idea why.

   This was back in February 1996, when True was a University of Illinois freshman and Gary Wieneke was one puzzled coach.

   "It was his first Big Ten indoor meet, and he had qualified for the final," Wieneke said Sunday. "And he was all upset because he didn''t win his heat. And I said, ''The only object is to qualify, so I wouldn''t be so upset about that.''

   "But that''s why he''s good."

   The competitive fire that burns within True has been a constant throughout the sophomore''s collegiate career.

   So was the frustration he felt while chasing an elusive Big Ten Conference title in his speciality, the 800 meters. Until Sunday, that is.

   "It feels really good to finally get it done," True said after his victory helped Illinois finish fourth in the Big Ten Outdoor Championships at the UI Track Stadium. "It''s one of those goals that you set at the beginning of your career, and it''s overwhelming to actually achieve it."

   The 4x100 relay team of Tunde Ridley, Chris Jones, Charles Gibson and Dorian Green also placed first for Illinois, which compiled 87 points. Wisconsin won its third consecutive Big Ten outdoor title with 145 points, 35 more than runner-up Minnesota.

   "I think we had a great Sunday," Wieneke said, pointing out that the Illini scored points in every running event except the 110 hurdles. "And the nice thing is, looking ahead to next year, basically we''re subtracting Dorian''s contributions, but everybody else is back."

   True won in 1 minutes, 49.57 seconds to edge out Purdue''s hard-charging Chris Cozort (1:49.90). Penn State''s Joe Loner, who defeated runner-up True for the Big Ten indoor 800 title earlier this year by a mere 0.08 seconds, was third in 1:50.45.

   In his three previous Big Ten 800 races, True finished third and second indoors and fifth outdoors.

   With about 200 meters to go Sunday, True made a lightning-quick break from the lead pack. That burst proved to be more than his pursuers could overcome down the stretch.

   "I opened it up a little bit and tried to stride it through the last 100, and it worked," the Glenbard West graduate said.

   "He ran a great tactical race," Wieneke said. "He made a move to clear himself from the field where he''s had a little trouble coming down the home stretch. He knew that and instinctively put the space there, held onto it and did a great job."

   Perhaps from putting so much into this title race, True became sick to his stomach afterward.

   "I''m hurting right now physically after the race," he said later, "but if I didn''t win, I''m sure I''d be hurting a lot more. It always hurts a little less if you come out on top."

   Illinois came out on top in the 4 x 100 relay when Green blazed down the stretch to fend off the anchor runners from runner-up Wisconsin and third-place Iowa. The UI''s winning time of 40.05 was just .06 seconds faster than the Badgers''.

   If only the rest of the day had gone as well for Green.

   "I felt really good about that and I thought everything was going to be fine," the Illini senior said after the meet.

   Green, a three-time Big Ten individual champion indoors, had hoped to land a league outdoor crown, too, before his career ended. However, the Cleveland native placed fourth in both the 100 and 200 dashes on Sunday.

   "I wanted to go out with a bang and not a poof," Green said. "If I had run what I did yesterday (in trials), I would have won the 100 and gotten second or third in the 200. I just can''t explain what happened."

   Green''s bid to go out a winner before the home fans also didn''t materialize in the meet-ending 4 x 400 relay. By the time anchor runner Green grabbed the baton, he was far behind two other runners and able only to narrow the gap as Illinois placed third.

   "I was making up ground," he said. "It was just too far in front, there was nothing I could do."

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