June 8, 2013
WATCH: NCAA Championship InterviewsComplete Results | Photo Gallery: 2013 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships
EUGENE, Ore. - Redshirt sophomore Leah O'Connor placed fifth overall in the 3,000 steeplechase on the final day of competition at the 2013 NCAA Track & Field Championships on Saturday. The Spartans earned a total of nine USTFCCCA All-American honors, including three on the first-team and six on the second-team. The Michigan State women's track & field team finished with a total of 15 points to tie for 18th place overall, tying it's highest team finish since 1983.
"For a long week and a long championship season, I think we wrapped up pretty well," said director of track & field/cross country Walt Drenth. "Hopefully, this means we are going to start to make progress and come back here consistently as a better team. We return two scorers, we have people returning who qualified for the meet and can hopefully score in their individual events and we have people back home who we think can make it next year and score. I feel like if we get a taste for excellence, then I don't know why we can't make it back here and move up four or five spots. I think our program is improving and I'm really proud of the progress."
O'Connor bounced back from her preliminary race to finish with fifth-place honors in the women's 3,000-meter steeplechase. She was less than 20 seconds away from her personal record time, crossing the finish line in 9:53.71 to earn first-team All-American honors.
"I was really pleased with Leah rebounding from the preliminary race," Drenth said. "She changed the way she looked at things and gained some confidence. She competed really well. She scored in that event, which is great because she has never scored at nationals. I think this will be an enormous confidence booster. From here, she'll start to realize some great things. She's a tremendous talent."
In his first trip to the national meet, redshirt freshman Caleb Rhynard represented the MSU in the men's 5,000-meter run. He clocked a time of 14:14.10 to earn second-team All-American honors with a 16th-place overall finish.
"Caleb ended the meet for us really well," said Drenth. "The spirit of this was will you engage, will you make decisions, will you go until you can go anymore and I think every way to assess this he did really well. He finished 16th and was easily the last guy into the NCAA final. To beat eight guys, this will be an enormous learning experience for him. This time last year, he was injured. So he'll have a whole summer to train and digest the race. I'm really proud of him and excited for what he can do in the future."
Also earning first-team All-American honors was Beth Rohl (discus) and Tori Franklin (triple jump) and representing the Spartans on the All-American second-team was Jellisa Westney, Alicia Evans, Jaelynn Pryor, Alysson Bodenbach (4x400-meter relay) and Antonio James (discus).
Members of the MSU track & field team will continue the outdoor season at the USA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa on June 19-23.