Jan. 10, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State track and field kicked off the indoor season by turning in several strong performances at the GVSU Bob Eubanks Open on Friday. Held at the Kelly Family Sports Complex, the Spartans posted 13 individual wins in the first meet of the 2014 season.
"With these early meets, what you try to do is establish where you are as a program, see what you have and what you're working with," said assistant coach Randy Gillon. "It was a mixed bag of results. Aside from that, I thought we saw some good energy and some good progress. We contested a lot of people in a variety of different events. We didn't try to do too much. We just wanted to go out there and get our feet wet. Some event groups were challenged more than others, but for the most part, I think it was a fairly conservative day of competition. We'll take this bit of progress and move forward."
Leading the men in the throwing events, Antonio James threw for a career-best mark of 18.95m/62-2¼ to take the win in the shot put. He was followed by Vinny Gjokaj in third place with a mark of 15.55m/51-0¼, while Chris Hessell finished sixth with a mark of 14.82m/48-7½ and Jake Bennett posted a mark of 14.82m/48-9½.
James and Gjokaj also posted top-five marks in the weight throw event. With a first-place mark, James threw for 21.08m/69-2, while Gjokaj finished fourth with a mark of 18.22m/59-9½. Also placing in the top-five was Connor Kostrzewa, who posted a mark of 18.19m/59-8¼.
"A.J. had a personal record in the shot put and a solid performance in the weight throw and both got him a win, which is always important as far as building momentum," Gillon said. "Vinny (Gjokaj), in his first year in uniform and Connor (Kostrewva) as well gaining some momentum. There are a lot of things to look forward to down the road."
DeVantre Whitelow turned in a first-place finish in the 60-meter dash, clocking a career-best time of 6.72.
"Another highlight would be DeVantre Whitelow," said Gillon. "He ran his personal best and just narrowly missed the school record of 6.71. More importantly, it was a pretty big statement to the rest of the men as to what's in store if he is able to stay healthy and stay the course."
Also earning an individual win in the 400-meter dash, Jarred Gambrell turned in a winning time of 50.24.
"It was exciting to see Jarred step out of his comfort zone into the open 400," Gillon said. "I think that is going to bode well for him down the road for confidence and for nothing else it shows leadership on his part. We often talk about kids stepping out of their comfort zone and taking on new challenges and doing things differently with the hopes of bringing about a different result. I think by him stepping onto the track and doing some races will only help him become a better athlete and is a great sign for other guys on the team."
"I think Austin was the main guy in the 200," Gillon said. "He ran a college best and definitely his fastest opening time of 21.89. He is a young man I'm really excited to see his potential. He's very dedicated and has been working very hard, so I'm excited about that."
The Spartans placed three in the top-five of the 300-meter dash led by Washington with a time of 34.73. Jibril Mims finished third with a time of 34.99, while Jacob McFadden posted a time of 35.24 to place fourth overall.
"It was exciting to see Jibril, Jake and David," said Gillon. "They are three young guys who I thought made some great strides in preparation for the season ahead going first, third and fourth in the 300 and came back with some very good efforts in the 200."
Winning the high jump, Kurt Schneider earned a mark of 2.08m/6-9¾. With a runner-up finish in the men's 60-meter hurdles, Schneider posted a time of 8.43.
In the long jump, Gambrell hit a mark of 6.77m/22-2½ to place third overall. MSU made up the entire field in the pole vault as the Spartans took first through fourth in the event led by Codi Mattix with a mark of 4.70m/15-5.
"The men in the pole vault are young and still trying to establish themselves and their identity and we're confident in time that they will have their moment," said Gillon. "I think when you look at that group, there are a lot of new Spartans and as the season progresses, they're going to have their moment."
With a winning time of 56.00, Tori Franklin edged out Michigan's Emily Wee to cross the finish line first in the women's 400-meter dash.
"Tori did a good job in the 400 with getting a win," Gillon said. "It was a good way to start the season. You never discount the value of winning and for her to get that will really help with confidence and momentum moving forward."
"TeJuanna Williams is a young lady who didn't have the best last three weeks of training, but she managed a pretty good competitive outing and narrowly missed first place," said Gillon. "It was the second-best time of her career. We're excited about her moving forward. Janae Hill is also a talented young woman and we're looking to see her step up."
In the 300-meter dash, Evans earned an individual win with a time of 39.12 followed by Westney with a personal-best time of 39.38 for second place.
Competing unattached, Katelyn Daniels placed first in the shot put with a mark of 14.60m/47-11. She followed up with a third-place finish in the weight throw with a mark of 16.41m/53-10¼.
"Of course you cannot discount the efforts of redshirt freshman Katelyn Daniels," said Gillon. "No big marks, but it can be pretty daunting when you step into the ring as a collegiate athlete and we though they handled themselves very well and it excited us to see what lies ahead."
"In the pole vault, we saw Lauren Chorny really start to take some strides," said Gillon. "I think that's exciting for Chorny to show that progress and it leaves us optimistic as far as what that group will be able to provide in terms of points down the road at the Big Ten meet."
In the long jump, Franklin turned in a runner-up finish with a mark of 5.16m/16-11¼. Adeline Grier-Welch tied for second in the high jump as she posted a mark of 1.61m 5-3¼.
"Moving forward, we think some of these guys might have a chance to compete at the nationals in a few months and be big points for us in the conference meet," said Gillon. "All in all, it was a day of highs and lows, but I think more importantly that each and every coach left with valuable information that will allow us to make the necessary adjustments moving forward to prepare for a successful season ahead."
The Spartans will take a weekend off before traveling to the Notre Dame Invitational on Jan. 25 in South Bend, Ind.