Double duty doesn''t faze UI hurdler

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Precious seconds aren't the only thing disappearing from Sherman Armstrong's life these days.

Tuition bills also have become a thing of the past, with the Illinois sophomore's rapid rise in the Big Ten ranks.

"I came in on a partial scholarship, but I kind of pressured my coach into giving me a full scholarship after the freshman year I had," Armstrong said. "I was an All-American in the (4x400) relay. I took second in the Big Ten in the 200. I just wouldn't have felt like coming back if I didn't have a full scholarship.

"Plus, it's easier on my parents. My dad was relieved, relieved, relieved."

Maybe with some of that leftover cash, Chicago police officer Sherman Armstrong Sr. can invest in a trophy case for the house. He's going to need one to store all the hardware his son's been lugging home lately.

In two years, Armstrong has gone from lightly recruited Class A kid to Edwin Moses Jr. Associate head coach Willie Williams already calls him the best all-around hurdler he's ever had – and he's had some good ones in his 17 years on the job, from Centennial's Ben Beyers to NFL draft pick Elbert Turner.

"In my opinion, he's definitely Olympian-caliber, if that's the route he decides to go," Illinois coach Gary Wieneke said.

This weekend, Armstrong will try to become the first UI hurdler ever to bag Big Ten titles in both the 110-meter high hurdles and 400 lows. He sports the top times in the league in both events, finishing the 400 in a UI-record 50.13 seconds (seventh-best in the nation) and the 110 in 13.89 (18th).

It's a tough double to pull off. One's a mad dash, one's a marathon.

Beyers was a two-time Big Ten champ in the lows, but didn't go near the highs. Turner was just the opposite.

"They're very different events," Armstrong said. "You've got to be able to go fast in the 110 hurdles. The 400 hurdles is more about endurance. You're rolling through the first 300 but when that last 100 comes around, you're feeling it."

Armstrong, who's in better shape than that guy hawking Tae-Bo videos on TV, will still be feeling it by the end of the weekend. He'll be the busiest Illini of them all at the 98th annual Big Ten Outdoor Championships, running legs on the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams on top of his hurdling.

Nothing new there. He did it all for Chicago's Luther South High, too, leading his team to the 1997 Class A title.

"It's a pretty heavy load, but that's the way he likes to operate," Williams said.

On the right track

Sherman Armstrong isn't the only Illini who could return home a winner from this weekend's Big Ten Outdoor Track and Field Championships in West Lafayette, Ind. Five other possibilities:

Collinus Newsome. Dike Eddleman Award finalist as good at winning Big Ten shot put titles (six in seven tries) as belting out national anthems.

Kerry Ann Richards. Jamaican best bet to take 100 dash, like Tonja Buford and Aspen Burkett before her.

Babatunde Ridley. Trying to become UI's first long jump champ since Bannon Hayes (outdoors) and Rod Tolbert (indoors) in '87.

Bobby True. Big Ten Medal of Honor recipient, who's looking to three-peat in the 800, hopes he's not UI's only champ like last year.

Jason Van Swol. Fast freshman topped True in 800 last weekend in Los Angeles, earning himself an NCAA invitation.

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