May 3, 2014
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Led by two new school records and 11 event wins, the Michigan State track & field team had a successful outing at the Dave Rankin Invitational at Purdue University on Saturday. Both the men’s and women’s 4x100 and 4x400-meter relays improved their season-best performances to cap off a productive day at the site of the Big Ten Championships in two weeks.
“We had some pretty good things happen,” said director of track & field/cross country Walt Drenth. “I thought we had a number of highlights. The conditions weren’t very good today; it was really windy, but I thought, across the board, it went pretty well. We still have some things we’ve got to accomplish and it would be nice to get some decent weather. It’s getting late and we’re kind of running out of turns. We want them to compete, but there are also marks that are important at this point, because some of them haven’t gotten into that top 48 for the first round of nationals.
"For most of us, now it’s just getting ourselves prepared, back in order and getting ready for the Big Ten Championships. You can’t control the weather, so I felt like for a lot of us, we competed pretty well. It was a good meet for us from a team standpoint. It was nice to get everyone back together and re-familiarize everyone with the team process. It was nice to be in West Lafayette to kind of get a sense of understanding what everything will be like. A level of familiarity is important when you’re going into a championship.”
The Spartan women dominated the 1,500-meter, taking home first through third place. Redshirt junior Leah O’Connor led the way, breaking the MSU record with a time of 4:16.40 to win the event. It is currently the sixth-best time in the nation. Redshirt junior Sara Kroll turned in a runner up finish with a time of 4:27.66, while redshirt freshman Rachele Schulist clocked a time of 4:28.01 to place third. In the men’s race, redshirt sophomore Caleb Rhynard turned in a runner-up finish with a time of 3:51.62. Redshirt freshman Nick Soter clocked a season-best time of 3:54.13 to place fourth overall.
“Leah (O'Connor) broke the school record at 1,500-meter,” Drenth said. “Going into the meet, it was the No. 4 performance by an American collegiate. I thought that was quite a solo effort, running in the wind. She did a nice job.”
Setting a new school record in the pole vault, redshirt sophomore Lauren Chorny took first-place honors with a record-setting mark of 4.12m/ 13-6¼. In the men’s competition, freshman Tim Ehrhardt finished first with a season-best mark of 5.10m/ 16-8¾, while freshman Tim Canfield tied his season high of 5.00m/ 16-4¾ to place second.
“Lauren Chorny did an excellent job,” said Drenth. “Breaking the school record in the pole vault is no easy task, so that was pretty cool.”
Earning his first of two wins in the meet, redshirt junior Antonio James finished first in the discus with a throw of 59.58m/ 195-6. Redshirt freshman Vinny Gjokaj placed fourth in the event, hitting a mark of 50.64m/ 166-2. With an outdoor-best mark of 19.35m/ 63-6, redshirt junior Antonio James also took first place in the shot put. Redshirt senior Chris Hessell finished fourth in the event with a mark of 16.33m/ 53-7, while redshirt sophomore Jake Bennett hit a career-best mark of 16.03m/ 52-7¼ to place sixth. In the hammer throw, redshirt sophomore Connor Kostrzewa turned in a runner-up finish with a mark of 59.36m/ 194-9.
In the men’s 100-meter dash, junior Ross Parsons was first to cross the finish line in 10.72. Junior Jellisa Westney also took first place in the women’s 100-meter finals, clocking a time of 11.76. In the finals of the 100-meter hurdles, freshman Lauren Rose finished second overall with a time of 13.74. Sophomore David Washington clocked a time of 53.27 to place third in the 400-meter hurdles.
Redshirt senior Kurt Schneider and junior Owen Hughes finished first and second, respectively, in the high jump. Schneider tied his season-best mark of 2.10m/ 6-10¾, while Hughes posted a height of 2.05m/6-8¾.
With an individual win in the triple jump, junior Tori Franklin improved her season-best mark to 12.92m/ 42-4¾. Senior Ashley Stacey placed third overall, as she recorded a mark of 12.49m/ 40-11¾. Stacey also finished fourth in the long jump, hitting a mark of 5.90m/ 19-4¼. Posting a personal-best mark of 5.27m/ 17-3½ was sophomore Tory Schiller, who finished ninth. In the men’s long jump, junior Jarred Gambrell finished fifth with a mark of 6.69m/ 21-11½, while freshman Reggie Ferrell hit a season-best mark of 6.60m/ 21-8 to place seventh. Gambrell turned in a runner-up finish in the triple jump, hitting a mark of 14.91m/ 48-11.
“It was nice to see Ashley Stacey get going a little bit,” said Drenth. “Her and Tori (Franklin) did not jump with the wind. It was good to see them, especially given Ashley’s recent struggles, it was important for us and for her to get going again.”
In the 800-meter run, freshman Aubrey Wilberding and redshirt sophomore Sara Stassen finished second and third, respectively. Wilberding posted a time of 2:10.22, while Stassen recorded a career-best time of 2:11.01. Sophomore Brandon Wallace led the Spartan men with a runner-up finish and time of 1:53.38, while redshirt sophomore Ryan Haag placed fourth overall with a time of 1:54.36.
“In the women’s 800m, we had some really good performances,” said Drenth. “Aubrey (Wilberding) ran well, but he’s ready to run fast and these conditions just didn’t allow it. In the men’s 800m, I thought Ryan (Haag) took a nice step forward and so did Brandon (Wallace). But again the wind was screaming this afternoon, so running into a headwind, it seemed like it was tough to get close to, if not exceed a personal best.”
Redshirt senior Kaylee Finney finished third overall in the women’s discus, throwing for a mark of 49.47m/ 162-4. In the javelin, Schiller turned in a personal-best mark of 28.15/ 92-4 to also place third.
“Kaylee Finney was good with the discus, again backing up her marks,” Drenth said. “She moved from kind of being an outsider to one of the top throwers in the conference in her last competition at Ashland. It’s nice to see her duplicate that mark, because that sign of consistency is important when you get to a championship.”
The Spartan men took first-place honors and posted a season-best in the 4x400-meter relay, as the team of junior DeVantre Whitelow, Parsons, Washington and sophomore Austin Sanders clocked a time of 3:10.47.
Shaving two seconds off their season-best time in the 4x400-meter relay, the team of Westney, Evans, Franklin and Stacey also turned in a runner-up finish with a time of 3:41.73.
“I thought our sprinters did a nice job,” said Drenth. “Particularly coming back from a number of events and then running season-bests 4x400 for both the men and the women. At the end of the meet, we did a nice job with the 200s and the 4x400s. That’s sort of a good sign of mental toughness – when you’re coming back from multiple events and you’re running and competing well in the 4x400s. Both Purdue and Ohio State have good sprint groups on both sides, so I thought it was important to be as competitive as we were.”
The Spartans will compete sparingly next weekend in preparation for the 2014 Big Ten Outdoor Championships hosted by Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., on May 16-18.