CHAMPAIGN – Help is on the way in the field events. So is another top sprint prospect from the Hoosier State.
The latest recruiting class for the Illinois men's track and field program includes:
– Two pole vaulters with three state titles between them.
– A shot putter with the sixth-best throw in the nation among preps this year.
– The fastest 100- and 200-meter runner this year among Indiana preps.
"We're just trying to get overall balance and fit the niches that open up in the Big Ten," coach Gary Wieneke said Friday, announcing four athletes had signed national letters of intent with the Illini.
With its running corps in strong shape, the UI staff bolstered the field events by signing pole vaulters Garrett Nelson of Rockford Guilford and Kevin Halik of Colorado Springs, Colo., and weight man Bernard Grady of San Diego.
Sprinter Tom Stephens of Hammond, Ind., also signed.
"What stands out the most is that they are all such great athletes," Wieneke said.
Halik is a two-time state champion who finished his prep career with a high mark of 15 feet, 6 inches. A two-sport standout for Rampart High, Halik also earned all-state honors in football as a wide receiver. Halik is following in the footsteps of his father, Ed, who lettered in 1968 and '69 as a UI pole vaulter.
Nelson also cleared 15-6, a personal best, in winning the Class AA state crown this year.
"He's a very disciplined and focused young man," Guilford coach Lee Marks said. "He's very competitive."
Halik and Nelson are arriving when each could make a quick impact in the Big Ten. Their best marks as preps were 51/4 inches off the winning height this spring in the conference meet.
Grady, of Script Ranch High, ranked among the national prep leaders in the shot at 63-103/4. He's thrown 178-0 in the discus.
"We think he's an immediate impact guy," UI assistant Tom Doyle said.
One year after signing 1996 Indiana 400-meter champ Kendall McCroy, UI associate head coach Willie Williams used his contacts in the state to land another Hoosier speedster in Stephens. The Gavit High runner clocked state bests this year of 10.56 seconds in the 100 and 21.34 in the 200.
"His record speaks for itself," Williams said.