Feb. 8, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Led by school record-breaking marks from Antonio James (shot put) and Tori Franklin (triple jump), the Michigan State track and field team wrapped up competition with a bang on day two at the Notre Dame Meyo Invitational in South Bend, Ind., on Saturday. Kurt Schneider also concluded the heptathlon at the Akron Invitational, finishing second overall with 5,558 points.
"The kids who had to compete did, " said director of track & field/cross country Walt Drenth. "Every competition we were involved in, I thought we did a nice job of racing. We had a lot of season bests and we won some races. We certainly had some outstanding individual performances. They are rising to the level of competition. That was a national-class meet and to have a presence in nearly every event in the top two or three is really important for our program to be able to continue to make that kind of progress. I think there is a little bit of that team atmosphere that sustained itself this week. I was happy to see that. Kids took an interest in other people. There are times when you have to go through some natural fatigue. It doesn't matter what event you're in - whether you're throwing or running or jumping. It bodes well if we can be fresh and ready to engage at the conference meet."
Antonio James won his second event in as many days, setting a new MSU record in the shot put with a career-best mark of 19.55m/ 64-1¾.
"All weekend, A.J. (Antonio James) was a man, he was exceptional," Drenth said, "He broke the school record in the shot put and really did a wonderful job, both in the weight and then to come back and win the shot."
Breaking her own school record, Tori Franklin jumped to a career-best mark of 13.39m/ 43-11¼ to earn her second individual win in the event this season. Though she fouled on her first two jumps, Ashley Stacy bounced back to finish fifth overall with a season-best mark of 12.63m/ 41-5¼. Also stepping up in the triple jump was Jarred Gambrell, who also posted a career-best mark of 15.36m/ 50-4¾ for a second-place finish.
"Tori Franklin was outstanding," Drenth said. "Ashley Stacy not making the final in the long jump (yesterday) and coming back and finishing as well as she did in the triple jump is very important. I was also exciting to see Jarred Gambrell jump better and place as well as he did."
Michigan State dominated the 3,000-meter run, also known as the Ryan Shay 3K. In the women's race, the Spartans took first through third place led by Rachele Schulist who won with a time of 9:22.35 in her first run in the event this season. She was followed by Lindsay Clark in second with a career-best time of 9:28.73, and Sara Kroll with a time of 9:31.03 for third. Ali Wiersma also turned in a personal-best time of 9:36.62 for eighth-place overall.
In the men's race, Caleb Rhynard earned an individual win with a time of 8:00.58 in his first race of the season in the event. Rounding out the Spartans was Garret Zuk with a season-best time of 8:13.99 for 10th place, while Alex Wilson finished 11th with a career-best time of 8:15.17.
"I was really pleased with Caleb (Rhynard)'s run and the women's 3,000 was good," Drenth said. "Both Alex (Wilson) and Garret Zuk did a nice job in the men's 3,000. The women's 3,000 was outstanding. They were really slow in the mile and Rachele Schulist really just took the race over and ran away with it. It looked like she can run a lot faster, so its excellent to see that kind of progress."
Posting a runner-up finish in the finals of the 60-meter dash, current Big Ten leader DeVantre Whitelow clocked a time of 6.75.
"Devantre (Whitelow) did a nice job," said Drenth. "He backed up his conference leading time; he's got to get a little tougher in that competition. He can have a chance to win the conference if he keeps making progress. If he spends time being an athlete, he'll have a good chance of winning the conference. If he spends time assessing what he's got to do next, it will be complicated for him."
In the pole vault, Tim Ehrhardt earned his second individual win of the season as he posted a personal-best mark of 5.20m/17-¾. Posting a runner-up finish in the high jump, Owen Hughes hit a season-best mark of 2.05m/ 6-8¾. In the mile, Nick Soter clocked a season-best time of 4:10.09 to place third overall.
"Otherwise, I thought the women sprinters were better today," said Drenth. "They continue to make progress and we need them to. We need the sprinters. Alicia (Evans) is starting to make some good progress. I thought she ran well in the 60 and to come back and run well in the 200 and 400, I thought that was nice to see."
Leah O'Connor placed sixth overall in the famous Meyo mile as she crossed the finish line in 4:39.32. In the 800-meter run, Aubrey Wilberding won her heat and took fifth-place overall with a personal-best time of 2:10.06.
"We need A.J., we need Sara Kroll, but they are upperclassmen and we kind of expect it out of them," said Drenth. "But we need the emerging kids. It's exciting to see Aubrey Wilberding win her section of the 800 with a personal and season best. Tim Ehrhardt was outstanding in the pole vault. For a freshman to come in and jump the way he is now, he's a legitimate scorer at the conference level. To have these new people emerging is really important for us, so it's exciting to see that coming to fruition."
Meanwhile, Kurt Schneider finished in second place in the heptathlon at the Akron Invitational. He tallied a total of 5,558 points, paced by a win in the high jump and four runner-up finishes. On Saturday, he wrapped up competition with his third second-place points as he posted a time of 8.25 in the 60-meter hurdles. He got his fourth runner-up finish in the 1,000-meter run with a time of 2:49.71, while he placed fifth in the pole vault with a mark of 4.32m/14-2.
"He did well," said assistant coach for multi-events Ceith Creekmur. "We were hoping for a little bit better point total, but it's the first one he's done in a long, long time. He redshirted last year, so it's the first one he's done a year and a half or so. His main events - jump and hurdles - are on point, we just have to start bringing along the other events and the events he hasn't done before. He'll have another one at Big Tens. The score we have now will be just outside (qualifying for NCAAs). We're not far off; we're right there. We go back knowing exactly what we need to work on the next three weeks. Physically he's ready, just technically we need to clean up a little bit."
The Spartans will be back in action next weekend as the team against splits competition between the SPIRE Invitational and the GVSU Big Meet. Members of the team will travel to the site of the Big Ten Indoor Championships in Geneva, Ohio to compete in the SPIRE Invitational on Feb. 14 and 15, while another group of Spartans will make the second trip of the season to Grand Valley State for the GVSU Big Meet.