Track & Field
Feb. 13, 1997
Men's Track and Field Turns Attention To Big Ten Championships
THE FRIENDLY CONFINES:
BAKER BUSTS 3,000 BEST:
Although it may seem like a questionable move, it proved to be a brilliant strategy that succeeded beyond Spartan expectations. In what may turn out to be the highlight of the 1996-97 indoor season, Baker shattered the Michigan State University indoor record in the 3,000 meters, busting through the finish line in an extraordinary 8:06.02. His time topped the mark set by former Spartan great Anthony Hamm, 8;11.04, set in Hamm's tremendous 1991 season. Baker reached the NCAA provisional qualifying time of 8:12.00. In crushing Hamm's record by more than five seconds, Baker became the first Spartan to etch his name in the record books since 1992, when both Larry Harden (55 high hurdles; 7.30 seconds) and Chris Brown (600 meters; 1:18.85) left their marks in MSU track history.
Despite the record, Baker's time placed him third in the event. However the two that topped him, Mark Croghan (unattached, 7:56.91) and Tony Casey (Team Adidas, 8:04.36), left Baker as the highest- ranking collegian in the race. In his spectacular 1997 season, Baker has not been outdistanced by an opposing collegiate runner. Fellow Spartan Ryan Kennedy was the only one to find a chink in the armor, edging him out in the mile during the Spartan Invitational (Feb. 1).
Not to be upstaged, Kennedy also made headlines. He surged to the finish line in the mile, also eclipsing an NCAA provisional qualifying time. He stopped the watch in 4:06.07, placing him sixth in the contest. But more importantly, Kennedy slipped in under the NCAA provisional mark of 4:06.50. He heads into the final part of the season with tremendous momentum and will be a strong contender for the Big Ten Championship after placing fourth last season in a time of 4:13.16.
Both Baker's and Kennedy's times would have gained race victories in the Central Collegiates. Eastern Michigan's Ben Reese, named Central Collegiate Championships Athlete of the Year, won both events in their absence. He timed in 8:35.57 in the 3,000, while stopping the watch in 4:12.15 in the mile.
THE CROWN JEWEL:
SPARTAN HIGHLIGHT REEL:
The 5,000 featured a foursome of Spartans, as freshman Joe Leo (Northville) led the group by crossing the finish line in 14:47.81, landing him in third place overall. Immediately behind Leo was fellow Spartan Brendan Banyon (So., St. Joseph's), as he hit the tape in 14:53.82, good for five points and a fourth-place finish. Sophomores Jake Nay (Columbus, Ind.) and Chris Wehrman (Pinckney) rounded out the crew, timing at 15:12.50 and 15:17.65, respectively.
Sophomore Lee Mays (Muskegon Heights) almost upstaged Coulter in the 600, finishing third in 1:20.68. Had it not been for Coulter's dramatics, Mays' time would have been the best by a Spartan this season. Mays and Coulter combined for 16 points, making this the most productive race for the MSU squad. Freshman Tim White (Arlington Heights, III.) also competed in the event, finishing eleventh in 1:25.06.
Junior Tyrone Garland (Cliffwood, NJ) continued his strong presence in the shot put, launching the rock 52 feet, 4 inches. His fourth-place finish gained him five points for the Spartan charge. In other field event action, the freshman duo of Keith Sudheimer (Farmington) and Matt Ingram (Lyons) each bounded 6 feet, 3.25 inches in the high jump, finishing 10th and 11th, respectively. As the lone Spartan sprinter in the finals of a sprint event, senior Ramsey Watkins (Flint) faced tough competition in the 55 high hurdles. In what proved to be a photo finish between Central Michigan's Greg Richardson (7.40 seconds) and Michigan's Neil Gardner (7.41), Watkins held his own, picking up two points with a seventh-place finish in 7.72 seconds.
A trio of Spartans garnered points in the 3,000-meters. An event MSU has dominated this season, they again ran well despite missing their best 3,000 runner, Kyle Baker. U.S. Air Force Academy transfer Steve Schell (So., Dearborn) led the Green and White band, hitting the tape in fourth, 8:39.39. Junior Jim Marcero (Monroe) and freshman Jason Kokoczka (Jackson) finished in a virtual dead heat in seventh and eighth place, as they reached the finish line in 8:47.01 and 8:47.02, respectively. Despite Ryan Kennedy's absence, the Michigan State milers continued their strong running. Junior Mark Goodfellow (Oxford) finally made his mark on the 1997 campaign, reaching the finish line in a strong 4:15.95, good for fifth place. Wehrman (4:20.01), junior Jim Jurcevich (Defiance, Ohio, 4:22.00) and sophomore Andrew Brittain (Monroe, 4:32.55) helped solidify the Spartan effort. The lone MSU 800-meter runner, senior Todd Richman (Kalamazoo), ran valiantly, but finished 25th in a time of 2:04.93.
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