The Big (Ten) Picture

MEN

What: Big Ten Indoor Track and Field Championships.

When: Saturday and Sunday.

Where: Camp Randall Memorial Sports Center in Madison, Wis.

Defending Team Champion: Minnesota.

Returning Individual Champions: 800 meters – Bobby True, Illinois; Long Jump – Bashir Yamini, Iowa; Triple Jump – Mike Turner, Purdue; Shot Put – Kurt Krick, Indiana; Heptathlon – Ben Jensen, Minnesota.

Illinois' 1998 Finish: Fourth.

Illini Outlook: For the veterans, the memory of last spring's eight-place finish in the Big Ten Outdoor Championships still stings. Led by the ultra-competitive True, look for the Illini to bounce back. They've finished fourth or higher in this meet the past six years. The title picture is as muddled as it's been in years. As many as five teams – including Illinois – have reason to believe they can come away with the team trophy.

Coach Gary Wieneke's Comment: "Usually there's some clear-cut favorite. That's simply not there this year. It's going to be more who maximizes their potential on those two days."

WOMEN

What: Big Ten Indoor Track and Field Championships.

When: Saturday and Sunday.

Where: French Field House in Columbus, Ohio.

Defending Team Champion: Michigan.

Returning Individual Champions: 55 meters – Aleisha Latimer, Illinois; 800 – Sarah Hamilton, Michigan; 55 hurdles – Donica Merriman, Ohio State; High Jump – Nicole Forrester, Michigan; Weight Throw – Toyinda Smith, Purdue.

Illinois' 1998 Finish: Third.

Illini Outlook: With one senior and a handful of juniors, youthful Illinois may be a year away from contending for a team title. But the Illini should have individuals in the mix for top medal honors, including Latimer, Tara Mendozza (middle distances) and Stacy Ann Grant (high jump). Youngsters like Camee Williams and Joanna Buciarska, entered in both track and field events, figure to get a baptism of fire on combining the two against high-level competition.

Coach Gary Winckler's Comment: "We're largely a team that will depend on our younger people to do some pretty good things. I wouldn't put us as one of the favorites, but if we do what we're capable of doing, we should be able to put up a strong showing."

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