Timing right for Illini pair seeking glory

Timing right for Illini pair seeking glory

   IOWA CITY, Iowa  Qualifying was the mission for most at Saturday''s 100th Big Ten Track and Field Championships.

   However, two Illinois athletes  Perdita Felicien and Jason Van Swol  went beyond merely making it to today''s conference finals. Felicien made herself eligible for the Sydney Olympic Games and Van Swol for the NCAA Championships.

   Van Swol, whose trouble in traffic has resulted in several tumbles to the track, eliminated any such possibility in the men''s 800 meters. He built a huge lead with a first lap of 51.4 seconds and finished alone in 1:47.89. That ranks No. 8 in the nation and advances him to the NCAA meet May 31-June 3 at Durham, N.C.

   Illini coach Gary Wieneke said today''s strategy will be only to win, but that Van Swol achieved two things in his solo run.

   "He''s qualified," Wieneke said, "and he put fear into a few people."

   Felicien, a freshman from Canada, won a semifinal of the women''s 100-meter hurdles in 13.02. That met the Olympic ''A'' standard of 13.10, meaning a nation can enter up to three in that event if all are under the mark.

   Dawn Riley set the school record of 13.00 in 1996.

   Felicien, who will try to make the Canadian team this summer, concentrated on the task at hand.

   "I knew my speed and power were there," she said.

   In the final, she will be up against the Ohio State duo of Donica Merriman and Dominque Calloway. Merriman is the 2000 world leader at 12.70, and Calloway''s 12.85 in the 1999 conference meet made her the world leader at the time.

   Felicien also qualified for the 100 final and sped the second leg on a 4x100 relay team that had the second-best time, 44.89. Oft-injured sprinter Kerry Ann Richards has previously been on champion relay teams in 1996, 1997 and 1999.

   "Everyone on the team is looking to win for Kerry Ann," Felicien said.

   Another Illini senior, Tisha Ponder, won the long jump for her first Big Ten title since she was a freshman. She leaped 20 feet, 2 1/2 inches.

   "I really wanted to end my career with another championship, and it feels great to finish up strong," Ponder said.

   Merriman beat Richards in one 100-meter semifinal, 11.49 to 11.62. Illini sophomore Chequetta Bearfield qualified in the 100, but not the 200.

   Jordana Meyer, an Illini sophomore from Villa Grove, was the No. 4 qualifier in the 400 hurdles at 1:01.50.

   Illini women''s coach Gary Winckler said he was most disappointed by the failure of Lyria Martin and Aleisha Latimer to advance in the 400. Latimer was supposed to remove her leg wrap, which came loose and flapped as she ran.

   Heading into today''s finals, Minnesota''s women lead defending champion Purdue 69-62. Illinois is eighth with 11.

   Besides Ponder''s 10 points, the Illini scored one with a surprising eighth in the 3,000 by freshman Amber Hunt. Her time of 9:45.30 bettered her previous best by 28 seconds.

   Defending champion Minnesota and Purdue share the men''s lead with 47 points each. Wisconsin, third with 46, is still heavily favored.

   Illinois is tied for seventh with 12 points. Freshman Brandon Lloyd was fifth in the high jump with a collegiate best of 6-11 3/4. In the long jump, Charles Burton was fifth and Babatunde Ridley seventh.

   "You hope for a great day, and we had a good day," Wieneke said. "We''re hoping for a great day tomorrow."

   Sherman Armstrong was top qualifier in the two events in which he is defending champion, the 110 hurdles (13.91) and 400 hurdles (50.39).

   Also advancing were Ridley in the 100 and 200, Tyrone Jones in the 400, Van Swol in the 800, Nick Gow in the 1,500 and Lloyd in the 110 hurdles. In the 1,500, Dan Horyn missed being one of 12 finalists by one-hundredth of a second.

   Highlight of men''s qualifying was a 10.18 in the 100 by Michael Bennett, the successor to Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne as Wisconsin''s tailback. Bennett challenged the all-time conference record of 10.10 set by Anthony Jones of Illinois in 1994.