Spartans Perform Strong on Day One at Jesse Owens and Larry Ellis Invite
10 personal records and three event wins highlight first day of weekend competition for MSU.
April 18, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Posting three individual wins and 10 personal records, the Michigan State track & field team kicked off the weekend with a bang on Friday. The Spartans had a breakout day with seven personal bests at the Jesse Owens Track Classic at Ohio State, while the MSU women also posted three personal bests at the Larry Ellis Invitational at Princeton.
"We had a good day," said director of track & field/cross country Walt Drenth. "We had a good presence and competed really well. We had a number of improvements in terms of performance, so I can't ask for more. We had great weather. When you're winning, you're doing what you can and that's all we can ask them to do. There wasn't an event where I thought we were bad. I thought we had a number of good performances on the track. We were quite good, but it is a good group of athletes. When I assess it, I ask were we competitive and did our effort match our performances, and I think in every case we can check the box. The evening went well."
Earning his third win in the event this season, fifth of his career, redshirt junior Antonio James took first place in the men's discus at the Jesse Owens Classic with a throw of 57.43m/ 188-5.
The Spartan women swept the 1,500-meter run, winning first through third-place honors. Redshirt senior Julia Otwell led the charge, now owning the fastest time on the team this season as she crossed the finish line first with a career-best time of 4:22.46. She was followed by redshirt sophomore Lindsay Clark with a runner-up finish with her personal-best time of 4:25.70, while redshirt sophomore Sara Stassen shaved nearly to seconds off her personal record to run a time of 4:25.87 and finish third. Redshirt sophomore Caleb Rhynard finished third overall in the men's 1,500-meter run with a time of 3:46.99, also a career best.
"The women's 1,500-meter was outstanding," Drenth said. "To go one, two, three and have a whole number of personal and season bests; they were great. Julia (Otwell) and Lindsay (Clark) seem to continue to have good practices and they equate to good competition. It was great to see Sara Stassen have a breakthrough. Caleb did a nice job; it was a pretty substantial PR for him in a good field."
With a breakthrough performance in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase, sophomore Chris Collier took first-place honors as he posted a personal-best time of 8:59.48. It is the seventh-best time in the Big Ten this season, and the fastest time by a Spartan since 2011. He was followed closely by redshirt senior Ben Miller, who posted a runner-up finish and shaved 10 seconds off his season-best time to cross the finish line in 9:03.92.
"Chris Collier had the breakthrough of the day," said Drenth. "His sub-nine time almost always makes the first round of nationals. That's a time that very well may give him a shot to score at the conference meet and that's ultimately what we're going for. Ben (Miller) did a nice job for a good portion of it."
Preparing for the decathlon, redshirt senior Kurt Schneider posted a significant personal record in the javelin as he hit a mark of 52.59m/ 172-6 to place 11th overall.
Meanwhile at the Larry Ellis Invitational at Princeton, the Spartan women's distance group turned in a handful of strong performances.
Shaving nearly 10 seconds of her personal record, redshirt junior Leah O'Connor ran a career-best time of 9:44.35 to place fourth overall in her first 3,000-meter steeplechase of the season. With a breakthrough run of her own, teammate Katie Landwehr finished fifth with her personal-best time of 10:09.87, 10-seconds faster than she ran just three-weeks ago.
"Leah opened with a personal record," said assistant coach Lisa Senakiewich. "To do that in her first race is great. There's some things that can be fixed moving forward, but we know that she'll run even better at the end. She was fourth with a couple of post-collegiates in front of her and a women that was fourth at the NCAA outdoor steeplechase who finished third. Katie also had progress with her PR. I think Katie could likely make the final at nationals and hopefully get on the podium at Big Tens, too."
In her first outdoor 5,000-meter run of her Spartan career, redshirt freshman Rachele Schulist turned in a third-place finish with a time of 16:08.46, the fastest time on the team this season. Close behind was redshirt freshman Alexis Wiersma in fourth place with a time of 16:18.85, a significant personal best. Redshirt junior Sara Kroll finished sixth overall, clocking a time of 16:24.54.
"In the 5K, Rachele (Schulist), she's been having some issues with iron, but she was third overall in her first race," said Senakiewich. "She managed it really well. She's definitely going to run faster, and so is Ali (Wiersma). Ali had her second personal record and Sara (kroll) finished fifth. They all have a lot more room to improve. Rachele and Ali really stayed engaged and followed the race plan. You can tell they're going to do some pretty good things. All three of them should make it into the first round of nationals. Then knowing we have Julia (Otwell) and Lindsay (Clark) is really exciting."
The Spartans will be back in action tomorrow, Saturday April 19, as MSU competes at the Mt. SAC Relays and continues progress at the Jesse Owens Track Classic. Action begins in Columbus with the men's pole vault at 10 a.m. ET, while the triple jump begins at 8 p.m. ET in Walnut, Calif.