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Monday, June 17
The Indiana Daily Student


Phi Gamma Delta positioned on pole, ready for race

Fiji looks to get second place monkey off back

Row 1 is filled with tradition. Phi Gamma Delta and Delta Chi are two of the all-time top teams. Delta Chi won 7 of 10 races in the 1970s and early 1980s, and Fiji hasn't finished out of the top five since 1993. \nSigma Phi Epsilon, the other team in the row, has developed a solid program in recent years and was the last greek team to win the race. Sigma Phi Epsilon edged Fiji to win the 1999 Little 500.\nPhi Gamma Delta (2:30.00)\nPhi Gamma Delta's luck in recent years has been filled with close calls.\nLast year, Fiji was the best of the teams battling for second place in a race dominated by the Cutters. In 1999, Sigma Phi Epsilon edged Fiji at the finish line.\n"I don't think it's a monkey on our back," junior Mike Nierengarten said of finishing second the past two years. "Second place is a respected finish and it's just one of those things that everybody wants to get first."\nFiji's depth could be the ingredient that pushes the team into the winner's circle this year. Fiji has a chance of being the deepest team in the field, and six riders are training with the team this season.\nFiji is so deep that senior Sam Blossom, who didn't compete in the March 24 qualifiers, placed fifth in Miss-N-Out one week later.\n"I think that says a lot about our team," Nierengarten said. "We do a lot of training and our depth is great this year. It was awesome that he made the finals."\nFiji earned the pole position with a time of 2:30.00, which was more than three seconds better than any other team. Some of the perks Fiji received for qualifying with the fastest time included the solid green jersey worn annually by the pole winner and a pit near the start/finish line.\nNierengarten and senior Todd Cornelius are the only two Fiji riders with race experience. Cornelius is competing in his third Little 500 and rode the final lap of the 1999 race. Cornelius finished second in this year's Individual Time Trials, and is one of the riders who pushes the entire pack during practices, Nierengarten said.\nDelta Chi (2:33.35)\nInside senior Jason Sonneborn's off-campus home is a flag that states: "What Have You Done Today to Win Little 500."\nWhen Delta Chi was dominating the Little 500 in the '70s and early '80s, the flag would hang outside the fraternity's house. Now, the flag represents the tradition Delta Chi riders must carry on every year.\n"It's one thing to say if you don't win the race, that's a disappointment, but that's putting too much emphasis on one race, one day," Sonneborn said. "For us, if we don't finish in the top three or five, that's a disappointment."\n Delta Chi isn't the force it was when it won 7 of 10 races in the 1970s and 1980s, but it is still one of the most-respected teams. Delta Chi has finished out of the top five twice in the 1990s. The team's last victory was in 1993.\nDelta Chi finished fourth in last year's race behind Cutters, Fiji and Sigma Alpha Epsilon. Sonneborn was a workhorse in that race, as he logged more than 80 laps. \n"In order for me to have a good kick at the end, I'm going to have to ride less than 80 laps this year," Sonneborn said.\nSonneborn is one of the top riders competing in this year's race. He finished second in Miss-N-Out and placed 10th in ITT. He is also one of the most knowledgeable riders and serves as chair of the riders council.\n"The last time we won, we had Todd Hancock, who led by example," alumni coach Steve Hoeferle said. "He led by example just like Jason does. Jason works hard." \nSigma Phi Epsilon (2:33.50)\nThere are no riders on this year's Sigma Phi Epsilon team remaining from the 1999 champions. But just because the riders aren't the same doesn't mean there aren't similarities between the teams.\n"They weren't necessarily the best riders on the track, but they came together on race day and won the race," junior Mike Zycinski said of the 1999 team. "That's what we are looking to do this year."\nAlumni riders from the 1999 team have trained with this year's Sigma Phi Epsilon team. The past riders have also given the team advice on how to train and prepare for the race.\n"I think the way we have everything set up with training, we are a contending team every year," said senior Isaiah Knouff, who started training after the 1999 race. "In 1998, they trained somewhat, but in 1999 they set a goal of winning the race, and they trained real hard and accomplished their goal."\nSigma Phi Epsilon started its quest to duplicate its 1999 success by qualifying third with a time of 2:33.50. The team's qualifying time was impressive because it came early in the day when wind was a factor and temperatures were in the low 30s.\n"I think that's a great position," Zycinski said. "Anywhere on the first two rows gives you a shot of winning the race. As long as you stay up front, you can control the race and be in position to win."\nZycinski and Knouff are the only two returning riders from last year's eighth-place team. Zycinski has placed in the top 11 of the Individual Time Trials the past two years. He also advanced to the semifinals of this year's Miss-N-Out and finished fifth in the same event last year.\n"He's a great rider," Knouff said of Zycinski. "He's probably one of the top five riders out here"

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