Feb. 23, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State track & field program improved on the second and final day of competition at the Big Ten Championships to earn a total of seven medals at the conference meet. Redshirt seniors Alysson Bodenbach, Beth Rohl and Lonnie Pugh each beat out the highly competitive field to become Big Ten Indoor individual Champions. It is the first time since 2011 that MSU has brought home three individual titles. With a total of five medals, the women fought back to finish in sixth place with 57 points, while the men compiled 29 points to place 11th overall.
"I thought the team answered the challenge today," said director of track & field/cross country Walt Drenth. "In nearly every event, we contested the competition. We were more competitive, we had better energy and both genders did much better today. I was really pleased with how they responded. What we weren't yesterday, I thought we did a really nice job of becoming today. There was a sustained high level of energy, a high sense of purpose and a little more confidence in a highly competitive environment. You have to go into these kinds of meets thinking that you are going to be successful; I felt like we became more like a team that believed that today. The women did a decent job of answering the call in terms of scoring more than just single-digit points. I think the men need to come out of making finals scoring one or two points and do a better job of getting to the top-two or three where the points are substantial."
The MSU women were highlighted on the track by redshirt senior Alysson Bodenbach, who had a career day at her final Big Ten Indoor Championships. She won a gold medal in the 600-meter run with a personal-best time of 1:29.45. It marks the first time MSU has won a Big Ten title in the event since Christine Duverge won the gold in 1991.
Bodenbach followed up her winning run by anchoring the 4x400-meter relay that scored second-place points for the Spartans. The silver-medal winning team of sophomore Jellisa Westney, sophomore Tori Franklin, sophomore Jaelynn Pryor and Bodenbach broke the school and previous SPIRE institute record with a time of 3:36.34.
"I think the women in the 4x400m relay were indicative of the way the whole team behaved today," Drenth said. "They had a busy day. Alysson Bodenbach had an incredible weekend when you think about the context that she was in. She had to qualify for the finals in the 600m, she ran a great mile leg of the distance medley relay, then she came back and won the 600m before she anchored the 4x400m relay with a 52 split. That's just a great run; everything about it was good. She's really stepped up as a leader. The women in the 4x400m followed her lead, so that was cool."
Redshirt sophomore Leah O'Connor earned her first Big Ten Indoor medal of her career as she placed third overall in the mile with a time of 4:42.04.
"Leah did a fantastic job in the mile," said Drenth. "It was easy to see her fight the way she did in the mile."
With a top-10 finish in the 400-meter run, sophomore Alicia Evans clocked a time of 55.92 to place seventh overall.
Michigan State was well represented in the 5,000-meter run with redshirt sophomore Sara Kroll leading the way for the Spartans in seventh place with a time of 16.24.73. Redshirt sophomore Megan Rodgers placed 20th with a time of 16:57.88, while Melanie Brender clocked a personal-best time of 16:59.48 to finish 21st. Also competing in the event was Olivia Sydow with a time of 17:05.61, good for 24th.
"Some of the momentum that was gained was a result of choices in the way we competed elsewhere," Drenth said. "Right off the bat, Melanie Brender wasn't going to score in the 5,000m, but she was running her brains out and it was evident."
On the field, freshman Adeline Grier-Welch tied for 15th place overall in the high jump with a mark of 1.63m/ 5-4¼. Hitting the same mark, but in more attempts was sophomore Molly Duda to tie for 17th.
Winning her fifth title this season and second Big Ten Indoor title of her career, redshirt senior Beth Rohl took the gold in the weigh throw competition. Her school-record setting mark of 22.17m/ 72-9 places her third in the nation. She claimed her first indoor weight throw title at the 2009 Big Ten Indoor Championships.
"Beth Rohl picked up the slack and just threw bombs," said Drenth. "She did such a great job. She is No. 3 in the country right now and throwing well at the right time. It's cool to watch. That sort of mentality and approach is just contagious. All of the those things helped us gain some momentum, so that was fun."
The Spartans turned in two top-10 finishes in the triple jump, scoring fifth and sixth-place points in the event. Junior Ashley Stacey posted a mark of 12.62m/ 41-5 to finish fifth overall, while sophomore Tori Franklin was close behind in sixth place with a mark of 12.61m/ 41-4½.
Taking the team win for the women was the University of Illinois with 115 points.
MSU gave the conference competition a one-two punch in the men's weight throw as the Spartans earned first and second-place points in the event. Redshirt senior Lonnie Pugh broke a Michigan State and SPIRE institute record in the weight throw with a personal-best mark of 22.21m/ 72-10½. Not only is it Pugh's first Big Ten title, but also marks the first indoor weigh throw title in MSU history and the first individual event title for the men since 2010. Earning a silver medal was redshirt sophomore Antonio James with his career-best throw of 22.14m/ 72-7¾.
"The men in the weight throw did great," Drenth said. "If you look at the sequence of throws with the guy from Purdue that went out there with a really big throw that would've easily won most of the conferences in the country and most often would win the Big Ten Championship. But Lonnie (Pugh) and AJ (Antonio James) just responded. They were relaxed and they bring tremendous energy to the event. They're just great competitors. Lonnie always comes through in the clutch and AJ is learning as a young athlete. They are two of the best guys in the country in the what they do."
Turning in a top-10 finish in the triple jump, sophomore Jarred Gambrell scored seventh-place points for the Spartans with a season-best mark of 15.09m/ 49-6¼. Sophomore Owen Hughes placed 12th overall in the high jump, hitting a mark of 2.06m/ 6-9.
On the track, redshirt junior Keenan Michael ran a time of 47.92 in the finals of the 400-meter dash to place ninth overall. DeVantré Whitelow scored points for the Spartans in the finals of the 60-meter dash, finishing sixth with a time of 6.82.
Also scoring in the finals of the 800-meter run, redshirt senior Joe Banyai posted a time of 1:50.79 to place sixth overall.
"On the men's side, it wasn't disheveled," said Drenth. "It was disappointing for Keenan (Michael) not to score. I thought he raced really well. Joe Banyai did a really nice job in the 800-meter."
In the final event of the meet, the men's 4x400-meter relay team of Michael, sophomore Aaron Hendricks, Whitelow and sophomore Stephon Foster placed 10th overall with a time of 3:14.41.
Winning the team title for the men was the University of Wisconsin with 90 points.
At the conclusion of the meet, the Big Ten conference announced the members if the First and Second Team All-Big Ten.
Receiving First-Team honors for the Michigan State women were Bodenbach and Rohl for each of their individual Big Ten wins.
All-Big Ten Second Team honors went to the members of the second-place 4x400-meter relay team members Franklin, Pryor, Westney and the members of the silver-medal winning distance medley relay team of Lauren Lampman, Rachel McFarlane and O’Connor.
On the men’s side, Pugh was named to the First Team All-Big Ten, while James received Second Team honors.
Michigan State will compete in their last meet of the regular season as the team returns to South Bend, Ind., for the Notre Dame Alex Wilson Invitational on March 2-3.