Wed, June 4: For Green, a change of race

Wed, June 4: For Green, a change of race

   BLOOMINGTON, Ind.  Truth be told, Dorian Green never has been all that crazy about running the 400 meters.

   "It hurts," the University of Illinois sprinter said.

   About as painful, in fact, as being a spectator only when the NCAA goes about crowning a champion in the 400. And that''s the scenario this week for a disappointed Green as the Illini senior wraps up an otherwise stellar collegiate career.

   "It feels kind of awkward for me not to be in it," said Green, a four-time NCAA qualifier in the 400. "I guess it''s like anything else  you don''t miss it till it''s not there. So I actually kind of miss running it now."

   Green won''t, however, miss out on these NCAA Outdoor Championships. He is qualified in both the 100 and 200, and will be among five Illini in action today when the 76th annual meet begins a four-day run at the Haugh Track Field Complex.

   Although Green is as versatile a sprinter as the UI men''s track program has ever had, he always has been most closely identified with the 400. The Cleveland native twice has won Big Ten titles at that distance and earned All-America status in the race in 1995 by placing fourth in the NCAA indoor meet. In UI history, only Tim Simon has faster times in the event.

   But the 400 was pretty much a washout for the 5-foot-8, 130-pounder this year. Green''s training almost immediately was set back when he suffered a hamstring strain during Illinois'' second indoor meet. And he never did hit his usual stride in the 400 in limited opportunities during this soggy outdoor season.

   "When I started running the 400 again, I didn''t have the endurance," Green said, "so I kept dying out a little bit at the end of my races."

   The Illini senior might have taken one final shot at qualifying in the 400 during the Big Ten meet late last month. But with freshman standout Chris Jones virtually guaranteeing the Illini points in that race, Green selflessly agreed to run the 100 instead as well as the 200. He placed fourth in both.

   Since Green has focused primarily on the longer sprints throughout his career, he''s more than a little surprised at having qualified for nationals in the 100. He expects some surprised looks, too, when he toes the blocks for the race.

   "To actually go in the 100 is probably shocking everybody looking at the national list," said Green, whose season-best time of 10.26 seconds ranks 12th in the field. "It will be interesting to hear the comments of people saying, ''What are you doing in this race?'' "

   Green admits he''s asked himself that same question.

   "I''m surprised," he said. "Lately, I''ve been looking at 100-meter (video)tapes, trying to figure out just exactly how to run it.

   "I''m not trying to go to win, but I am trying to maybe PR (run a personal record)."

   But don''t sell Green short, says Illini associate head coach Willie Williams, who works with the sprinters.

   Sure, the short sprints tend to favor those big, powerful guys with the explosive starts, concedes Williams. But Green has been able to overcome his lack of size before in these events.

   "I think something really exciting can happen for him this weekend in at least one of the two events," Williams said. "He has that quickness, and if he gets a good start, he''s going to give somebody trouble over there."

   Green is counting on doing just that in the 200. Although his best time this spring (20.74) ranks only 17th in the field, the Illini senior clearly is more confident at the longer distance.

   "The 200 is closer to what I do," said Green, "so hopefully I''ll do better in that. The 100 is a lot of speed, a lot of power, a lot of technique. With the 100, if you mess up, you mess up. Whereas in the 200 and 400, if I have an error, I can correct it within the race."

   Whatever happens this weekend, it couldn''t change the lofty opinion Williams and UI head coach Gary Wieneke have of Green one bit. Both have long marveled at his versatility as well as his ability to rise to the occasion in big meets.

   "If anyone has a better Big Ten record, I''d be amazed," said 23rd-year head coach Wieneke, when asked to compare Green to past Illini sprinters. "He''s been versatile from the 55 all the way up through the 400. And actually, he probably could have easily been effective in the 600 and 800 if we had needed him there."

   Where the Illini have needed him, in addition to the sprints, is on their consistently successful relay teams.

   During his career, Green has run on two All-American relay teams and five Big Ten champion relay units.

   "He''s a great stick man," Wieneke said.

   One who, because of his versatility, will leave a wide-ranging void upon completing his UI career.

   "We''re going to have a hard time totally filling his shoes and the things he added to the program," Wieneke said.

   "We hate to lose him," Williams added. "He''s a very positive influence with our new people.

   "He''ll be missed."

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