June 7, 2013
EUGENE, Ore. – Sophomore Tori Franklin broke her own school record to place fourth in the triple jump and highlight the third day of competition at the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships. At the historic Hayward Field, the Michigan State women are currently in 16th place with 11 points.
“I thought they competed really well today,” said director of track & field/cross country Walt Drenth. “This is the most fun I’ve had at a national championship since I’ve been at Michigan State just in terms of having someone competing every day and coming to the meet not as spectator, but as an active participant. To see kids scoring and really being involved in the competition is great, our hats off to them. This group of kids is really starting to buy in to what we are expecting of them and raising the bar for teams to come.”
With a personal record jump of 13.56m/ 44-6, Franklin earned a career-high fourth-place finish at the national meet. She beat out the Big Ten Champion from Nebraska with her record-setting mark from her third jump in the first round. Franklin, who entered the meet ranked sixth in the nation, improved eight spots from her 12th-place finish at the 2012 national meet.
“Tori was in the second flight, but the first flight of girls were all jumping really far,” said assistant coach Vanitta Kinard. “12th place was 43-3, so I told Tori that we have come out here and show up and she did that. I’m so excited about her future. She has so much more to learn and so much farther to jump. I’m just really excited about what the future holds based on what she did here.”
James placed the highest in his outdoor career at the national meet with a mark of 58.85m/ 193-1, but missed the finals of the event by one inch.
“A.J. did a great job,” Drenth said. “He put himself in the mix and gave himself a shot. It came down to two guys on their last throw that just barely bumped him out of an opportunity for three more throws. For a young guy coming out here, this kind of experience for a sophomore is phenomenal. Next year, he’ll know what kind of throws and marks you have to have. He’ll be back and do well. I have no doubt that he will be a big time scorer in the discus and maybe even the hammer.”
Pugh, who was seeded 22nd going into the event, finished 17th overall with a mark of 54.57m/ 179-0 in his last collegiate event as a Spartan. He has qualified for every NCAA Championship in which he was eligible and leaves MSU as the school record holder in the hammer throw.
“We’ve been so fortunate to have Lonnie with us for the past five years,” said Drenth. “He’s been a remarkable leader and phenomenal competitor. He’s been so consistent with who he is, how he competes and how we can count on him through the course of the last five years. It will be weird not going to meets with Lonnie Pugh.”
Also representing the Spartans on Friday was sophomore Sarah Birkmeier, who was the first MSU pole vaulter to compete at the national meet since 2005. She qualified her first NCAA Championships, but was not able to pass the opening height of the women’s pole vault.
“It was a little bit of a rough start,” said assistant coach Ceith Creekmur. “We couldn’t quite get her step figured out and that was kind of affecting the pole she was going to be able to use. She needed to go up with her pole size, but we didn’t find out until it was too late. I definitely think it was a learning experience. She’s a sophomore, so going into next year we can plan for the fact that she is at this level. Now she feels like she belongs with the best of the best and that will help a lot mentally having a completely different attitude.”
Michigan State will conclude competition tomorrow with the distance running events. Leah O’Connor will look to score in the finals of the 3,000-meter steeplechase, while Caleb Rhynard will compete in the 5,000-meter run. Tomorrow’s coverage of the NCAA Championships will be broadcast on ESPNU at 5 p.m.