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Jan. 20, 1997

Track & Field Team to Battle for State Supremacy

Friday January 24 Michigan Intercollegiates Ypsilanti 12 p.m.
A gathering of Michigan's Division I men's track and field teams will take place Jan. 24 in Ypsilanti, as Eastern Michigan hosts the Michigan Intercollegiates. The Spartans hope to rebound from last season's disappointing fifth-place finish in this event.

The Spartans have already competed against four of their five opponents earlier this season. MSU opened the 1997 campaign with a loss to Michigan, 76-41, as part of a double-dual meet with Indiana in Ann Arbor. The Wolverines, who hosted last season's meet, are looking to repeat as event champions.

Michigan State battled three more of its upcoming rivals in last Saturday's Michigan State Invitational (full story below). Central Michigan, which edged out MSU for the invitational title, features a strong band of sprinters who lead a solid all-around squad. Western Michigan finished 20 points behind the Spartans, however they bring tremendous field event athletes to the table. Detroit Mercy finished a distant fourth in Saturday's event. The only unknown to MSU will be Eastern Michigan, which was last season's runner-up in the Michigan Intercollegiates.

A late Spartan surge helped MSU capture second-place for Michigan State at the Michigan State Invitational held January 18 at Jenison Field House. Central Michigan came away victorious from the field of six teams, building a big lead that withstood the Spartan charge. The Chippewas finished with 166 points, edging out Michigan State (141) and Western Michigan (121). Detroit (23), Southwestern Michigan College (7) and Lansing Community College (5) rounded out the competition.

Freshman sensation Okoineme Giwa-Agbomeirle (Midland) shone brightly once again, bounding to another victory in the long jump with a leap of 23'3 1/4". In just his first two collegiate meets, Giwa-Agbomeirle has produced two of the longest jumps in recent Spartan track and field history, and may one day challenge the long-standing MSU indoor mark of 25'4 3/4", set by Fred Johnson in 1948. Giwa-Agbomeirle also placed second in the triple jump during Saturday's meet, leaping 46'6 1/4".

Spartan distance runners dominated their events, racking up 59 out of a possible 62 points in just two races. Sophomore Kyle Baker (Anderson, IN) proved unbeatable, sweeping the mile run and the 3,000-meter event with times of 4:11.42 and 8:26.80, respectively. Baker has not lost a race all season, winning all three races in which he has competed. Four Spartan teammates joined him in taking the first five places in the mile run. Runner-up Ryan Kennedy (Rochester Hills, 4:12.87) was followed by fellow-senior Dean Rugh (White Lake, 4:14.53), junior Mark Goodfellow (Oxford, 4:15.57) and freshman Joe Leo (Northville, 4:18.29), combining to take 30 of 31 points from that event, pushing the Spartans into contention. In the 3,000-meter race, Baker united with sophomore runner-up Steve Schell (Dearborn, 8:28.20), junior Jim Jurcevich (Defiance, OH, 8:34.90) and Kennedy (8:35.10) to sweep the first four places. Sophomore Jason Kokocza (Jackson, 8:39.50) also picked up a point by finishing sixth, giving the Spartans 29 points in that event.

Senior Ramsey Watkins (Flint) provided an early Spartan highlight, sprinting to a win in the 55-meter high hurdle event, hitting the tape in 7.68 seconds. His time was a season-best, as he is beginning to hit the stride that placed him second in last season's Central Collegiates. Fellow Flint native, sophomore Jason Coulter, rocketed to a victory in the 400-meter run, hitting the tape in 49.35. Coulter also was the foundation for a tremendous Spartan win in the mile relay, as MSU came back from a huge deficit to pass two teams in the final straight-away, taking home the event crown with a time of 3:21.70, only .15 seconds ahead of runner-up Central Michigan.

Junior speedster Damon Heard (Ypsilanti) propelled his way to the second place in the 55-meter dash, bettering the best Spartan time in that event this season by crossing the finish line in 6.52 seconds. He also picked up two points in the 200-meter race, finishing fifth in 23.14 seconds. Sophomore Lee Mays (Muskegon Heights) complimented Coulter's win in the 400 by picking up four points via a fourth-place finish in that event (49.74).

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