May 12, 2013
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Spartans scored in every event they competed in on the final day of competition at the Big Ten Outdoor Track & Field Championships on Sunday. Led by five medal-winning performances from Leah O'Connor, Beth Rohl, Tori Franklin, Ashley Stacey and Derik Peterman, Michigan State finished strong at the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. At the conclusion of the meet, the women finished fifth overall with 76 points and the men earned 33.5 points for 10th.
"I was happy with the day on both sides," said director of track & field/cross country Walt Drenth. "There were a lot of highlights. Nearly everyone who we had advance scored. I told the men in our meeting last night that I thought everybody competing had a chance to score and we did. I think that that has got to send a signal to the other guys that if you get through the first day, you're going to score. It should give them a boost of confidence and some perspective on taking the next step. For us to be really competitive, we have to finish meets. If we can start that trend, then we're going to see some progress. But overall I thought the men did a really nice job.
"On the women's side, I'm really proud of them. It's a big step for us to be getting to the last day and scoring. It's such a good conference and the margins are pretty slim. We're a couple of tenths between being third or fourth place and the points become substantial there. As a fifth-place team, you start looking at how to bridge those gaps. I think we can with some of the great performances we saw from some young people. We're talking about kids who can come back here who have learned a lot and can really do well. So in the big scheme of things, they made a lot of progress as a team. The people who ran today have been contesting events all weekend and to come out here and do those last events and do them well, that defines a team. For me, if they start understanding that they are capable of that, then next year we'll come and have a chance to be even better than we were today."
To kick off the day, Redshirt senior Beth Rohl earned her second medal of the meet, winning gold in the discus throw. She led the field from her first throw and never let go of her winning mark of 55.22m/ 181-2. At her last conference meet, she won her sixth Big Ten outdoor medal of her career.
"Beth was awesome," said Drenth. "She knows how to win. She came out in her first throw and basically put it away, creating an environment where everyone else was climbing up hill. It is something she has learned to do. We have great faith in her and are really proud that she's been a part of our program."
In her first ever 5,000-meter run race, redshirt sophomore Leah O'Connor pulled away for the win with a time of 16.09.46. It marked her second gold-medal winning race in the meet, third of her career. With Saturday's win in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, O'Connor has won every Big Ten outdoor race in which she has competed.
"To be able to come back after the steeple yesterday and run a race like that is not easy to do," said Drenth. "She had a great performance."
The Spartans earned two spots on the podium in the women's triple jump. Sophomore Tori Franklin finished second overall with a mark of 13.16m/ 43-2¼ and junior Ashley Stacey hit a personal-best mark of 12.77m/ 41-10¾ to win bronze. It is the second outdoor medal for Franklin and the third for Stacey. Franklin also scored eighth-place points in the finals of the 400-meter dash with a time of 56.76.
"I told them that they were definitely capable of going one and two," said assistant coach Vanitta Kinard. "Unfortunately, the girl from Nebraska got Tori by a couple of inches. But I feel like they really engaged in the competition and really shot for what I told them they were capable of."
Derik Peterman won his second Big Ten medal in the men's pole vault, taking bronze in his last Big Ten conference meet. He recorded a mark of 5.06m/ 16-7¼ to tie for a third-place finish.
"What got him third place was the fact that he was hitting every jump on his first attempt," said assistant coach Ceith Creekmur. "The wind was throwing a lot, which was messing with a lot of vaulters. It was all about who was going to commit to the jumps when they got on the runway. At breakfast today, he sat down and said `I'm going to get on the podium today.' He made the decision before the competition even started that he was going to commit to every jump regardless of the conditions. That's definitely what got him the finish."
In his last conference meet appearance, redshirt senior Joe Banyai finished a career-high fifth place in the men's 800-meter run with a time of 1:51.25.
Earning sixth-place points for the men's team, redshirt freshman Caleb Rhynard clocked a time of 14:14.52 in the 5,000-meter run.
Sophomore Jellisa Westney scored points for the Spartans in the finals of the 100-meter dash. She posted a personal-best time of 11.62 to place sixth overall. She followed up with a seventh-place finish in the finals of the 200-meter dash, clocking a time of 24.46. Also scoring points in the 200-meter finals was sophomore Alicia Evans, who recorded a time of 24.08 to place sixth overall.
Competing in each day of competition, redshirt sophomore Antonio James finished his marathon run with a seventh-place finish in the shot put. He threw for a personal record mark of 18.17m/ 59-7½ to score for MSU.
In the finals of the 400-meter hurdles, sophomore Jaelynn Pryor finished with eighth-place points with a time of 1:00.52.
Also scoring for the Spartans, sophomore Jarred Gambrell finished in eighth in the triple jump with a mark of 14.92m/ 48-11½.
To conclude the meet, Michigan State scored points in both the men's and women's 4x400-meter relay. The women's team of Evans, Pryor, Westney and redshirt senior Alysson Bodenbach finished fourth overall with a time of 3:41.47, while the men's team of freshman Jibril Mims, redshirt senior Keenan Michael, redshirt sophomore Austin Wissler and sophomore Aaron Hendricks earned eighth-place points with a time of 3:17.53.
"I'm proud of the 4x400 and their effort," said Drenth. "Some of those women - that was their fifth or sixth race of the weekend. It's tough. Those guys came out and ran reasonable well and to end up scoring, that's what we're here for. I thought they did a nice job."
Members of the Michigan State team will travel to the NCAA East Regional competition in Greensboro, N.C. on May 23-25 in hopes to qualify for the NCAA Championships.