Illini freshman spins record

DURHAM, N.C. – Illinois hurdlers Perdita Felicien and Sherman Armstrong continued their sparkling seasons Thursday at the NCAA Track and Field Championships.

Felicien, a freshman, blazed to a career-best 12.91-second clocking in the preliminaries of the women's 100-meter hurdles, finishing second in her heat and advancing to today's semifinals.

Armstrong, a junior, placed second in his preliminary heat of the men's 110 hurdles in 13.75 and moved on to today's semifinals at Duke University's Wallace Wade Stadium.

Felicien's performance drew praises from UI coach Gary Winckler.

"It might be surprising to some people that a freshman is doing so well, but Perdita runs with a lot of poise and confidence. She has worked extremely hard all season, and along with that, her times have really improved," Winckler said.

Have they ever.

Felicien's time Thursday ranks as one of the fastest clockings by a freshman at the NCAA meet and also set an Illinois record, shattering seven-time Big Ten champion Dawn Riley's mark of 13.00 in 1996.

Tonya Williams, a two-time NCAA champion and 29-time Big Ten titlist, ran 13.01 as a senior in 1996.

"I told a teammate last night that I was going to try and run under 13 seconds, but this was beyond my expectations. Now, I need to carry this momentum into tomorrow and make it into the finals," Felicien said.

Armstrong, meanwhile, had the second-fastest time of his career in the 110 hurdles.

"Sherman thrives on competition. His confidence level here is apparent. He's a guy that steps up when it matters most," Illini coach Gary Wieneke said.

In other action Thursday, UI senior Tisha Ponder earned 16th in the long jump with a leap of 19 feet, 11 3/4 inches. Centennial product Gia Lewis took 21st in the discus at 145-10.

Chequetta Bearfield, Felicien, Lyria Martin and Kerry Ann Richards are scheduled to compete today in the women's 4x100 relay. Armstrong also is scheduled to run in the 400 hurdles finals today.

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