Feb. 15, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Led by three wins and five school record-setting performances, Michigan State capped off a great weekend at the SPIRE Invitational on Saturday in Geneva, Ohio. Rachele Schulist (3,000m), Aubrey Wilberding (800m), Leah O’Connor (mile), Tori Franklin (triple jump) and DeVantré Whitelow (60m) all turned in personal-bests and tied or set MSU records in their respective events on Saturday.
"Today was a special day in a variety of ways,” said assistant coach Randy Gillon. “Coach (Walt) Drenth challenged us going into this meet about really trying to compete and engage and putting all distractions aside; what you saw was a team that answered the call and did exactly just that. It was a really good team effort. What you saw was a group of individuals who were choosing to engage and choosing to fight. As a coaching staff, that’s what we really want to see at this point. If you go into a competition with the will to fight and give it your best, that’s only going to help you moving forward towards Big Tens, which is only two weeks away. To see a group of individuals, top to bottom, choosing to engage, choosing to fight and choosing to give it their all for MSU, it’s pretty special. What you saw, not trying to avoid recognizing people individually, but it’s important to recognize the team and how they engaged and how they chose to impose their will on their events in which they contested. The team just did a tremendous job.
“However I would be doing this program a great disservice if I failed to mention Rachele Schulist and Aubrey Wilderbing. These two young women, what they did was nothing short of spectacular. It was a race to watch, it was energy, it was courageous, it was ambitious, it was heroic, it was everything. It’s nothing to take away from DeVantre (Whitelow) tying the school record, or Tori (Franklin) tying her school record and A.J.’s (Antonio James) continued success. But it is my hope that the team as a whole really take note to their efforts. The 3,000 and 800 are really difficult events and it would’ve been easy for them to succumb to the challenges and no one would’ve faulted them. But they chose to take it a different way. They chose to engage, they chose to compete and they chose to win. It was a very special day for those women and for Michigan State track & field as a whole. There’s a lot to be proud of.”
Earning an individual win in the 3,000-meter for the second-straight meet, Rachele Schulist shaved a full 15 seconds off her time to set a new MSU and SPIRE Institute record with a time of 9:06.85. She now owns the top time in the event in the Big Ten and fourth-best time in the NCAA. Sara Kroll (9:27.25) and Julia Otwell (9:30.91) finished seventh and eighth, respectively in the event. Shelby Jackson also clocked a personal-best time of 9:39.85.
“What we saw was Rachele (Schulist) step back a little patiently and when the time came to take the lead, she took it and never let go,” Gillon said. “For a freshman to run the 3,000-meters in the manner that she did, it was pretty special for a freshman to show that kind of poise, that kind of commitment and that kind of effort. It was nothing short of spectacular. She obliterated the school record and catapulting herself to the top-five in the country. It’s outrageous. We thought we were watching a seasoned veteran.”
Setting a new school record in the 800-meter run, Aubrey Wilberding clocked a personal-best time of 2:06.95 to finish in third place overall. It is the fourth-best time in the Big Ten this season. Angela Swain also turned in a career-best time of 2:12.96 to place 19th.
“Aubrey (Wilberding), a true freshman, running arguably one of the more competitive races in the competition, truthfully really had a shot to win and gave herself every chance to win,” said Gillon. “What you saw bodes well for her moving forward. Quitting is not a word in her vocabulary, I can assure you that. What we saw was nothing short of spectacular for a true freshman. Although Aubrey came up short, she doesn’t run as fast as she ran if she doesn’t go for the win.”
Breaking her own school record in the mile, Leah O’Connor was first to cross the finish line in a record-setting time of 4:37.74 to rank second in the Big Ten. Close behind was Lindsay Clark, who clocked a personal-best time of 4:43.29 to place third in her first race of the season.
Winning her third-straight title in the triple jump, Tori Franklin tied her own school record and broke the SPIRE Institute record with a personal-best mark of 13.39m/ 43-11¼. Ashley Stacey hit a career-best mark of 12.86m/ 42-2¼ for a runner-up finish and the fourth-best mark in the conference this season.
Improving on his conference-leading time in the 60-meter dash, DeVantré Whitelow tied the school record as he was first to cross the finish line in 6.71.
Barely missing a personal record in the pole vault, Jamie Salisbury hit a season-best mark of 4.98m/16-4 to take a runner-up finish. Tim Ehrhardt hit the same mark, but in more attempts to tie for sixth place overall.
Breaking through for a career-best mark in the triple jump, Jarred Gambrell hit a mark of 15.43m/50-7½ to place third overall. It is the fourth-best mark in the Big Ten this season.
Caleb Rhynard placed third overall in the mile run, crossing the finish line in season-best time of 4:03.28.
Antonio James turned in a top-five finish in the shot put, throwing for a mark of 18.88m/ 61-11½ to place fourth overall.
The Spartan men finished fourth through sixth in the long jump, led by newcomer Demarcus Leak with a season-best mark of 7.09m/23-3¼. He was followed by Gambrell in fifth with another season-best mark of 7.06m/23-2, and Kurt Schneider hitting a mark of 7.01m/23-0 for sixth place.
“We also know that all this will mean nothing if we don’t show up with the same kind of focus, the same kind of drive and the same kind of commitment in two weeks,” Gillon said. “If we don’t bring the same kind of energy in two weeks back to SPIRE to take on the conference bests, then all the record and all these achievements will be for not. We’re confident as a staff that we will continue to push the student-athletes, and we’re confident the student-athletes will answer the call and give their best effort in two more weeks to contest for a conference championship.”
In the last weekend of competition before MSU returns to the SPIRE Institute for the Big Ten Indoor Championships, the Spartans will be again split action next Saturday. Members of the team will compete at both the Alex Wilson Invitational in South Bend, Ind., and the Silverston Invitational in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Saturday, Feb. 22.