March 5, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - After a successful conference meet, the Michigan State track & field team has qualified six Spartans to compete at the 2014 NCAA Indoor Championships in Albuquerque, N.M on March 14 and 15. The members of the team that will challenge the nation's best include Tori Franklin (triple jump), Antonio James (shot put, weight throw), Leah O'Connor (mile), Kurt Schneider (heptathlon), Rachele Schulist and Caleb Rhynard (3,000m).
Albuquerque or Bust
Antonio James and Tori Franklin will be making their second appearance at the indoor national meet, as both competed in 2013 and 2012, respectively. Last season, James earned a silver medal in the weight throw, while Franklin won bronze in the triple jump her freshman season. The highest-seeded Spartans, James enters the meet at No. 4 in the weight throw (22.74m/74-7¼) and No. 8 in the shot put (19.93m/65-4¾), while Franklin moved into the No. 3 spot in the triple jump (13.56m/44-6).
Joining them in their first indoor national competition will be Kurt Schneider in the heptathlon (No. 7 - 5,738 points), Leah O'Connor in the mile (No. 3 - 4:34.35), while Rachele Schulist (No. 11 - 9:06.85) and Caleb Rhynard (No. 16 - 7:53.34) each qualified in the 3,000-meter run.
Junior Tori Franklin won the title of 2014 Big Ten Field Athlete of the Championships, as announced by the conference office on Tuesday. She competed in a total of four events, two field and two track, over the two-day meet, winning a gold medal in the triple jump. Her mark of 13.56m/44-6 is the new Michigan State, SPIRE Institute and conference meet record, and breaks the Big Ten record previously set in 2003 by the former Nicole Whitman, wife of assistant coach Randy Gillon.
Earning First-Team All-Big Ten recognition was Franklin and O'Connor for their individual event wins, while Erin Billette, Alicia Evans and Aubrey Wilberdig were named to the All-Big Ten second team for their performances in the record-setting distance medley relay.
With a win in the shot put, James earned First-Team All-Big Ten honors on the men's side, while freshman Tim Ehrhardt received Second-Team All-Big Ten recognition for his runner-up finish in the pole vault.
Record Breaking Spartans
Entering the conference meet, the Spartans had already set seven new records over eight weeks of competition the season. Over the two-day meet, Michigan State matched that total, adding seven record-breaking performances at the Big Ten Championship meet. The records broken by the Spartans at the conference were no small feats. MSU did not merely improve the marks by inches or a half second, but shattered the previous records spanning over two decades old.
Tori Franklin and Leah O'Connor's set new conference championship records that were a combined 37 years old. Franklin's mark in the triple jump not only broke the meet record, but is the best jump in the history of the Big Ten since 2003. Accompanied by the storied history of the mile, O'Connor broke the previous meet record set by Suzy Favor-Hamilton in 1988.
Previous Record, New Record:
- 3,000m - Kyle Baker - 7:57.09 (1999), Caleb Rhynard - 7:53.34 (2014)
- 5,000m - Jim Jurcevich - 13:57.20 (1998), Caleb Rhynard - 13:53.34 (2014)
- Heptathlon - Paul Terek - 5,685 pts. (2001), Kurt Schneider - 5.738 pts. (2014)
- Women's distance medley relay - 11:15.21 (2013), 11:13.82 (2014)
- Mile - Leah O'Connor - 4:37.74 (2014), 3:34.35 (2014)
- Triple jump - Tori Franklin - 13.39m/43-11¼ (2014), 13.56m/44-6 (2014)
- Shot put - Antonio James - 19.55m/64-1¾ (2014), 19.93m/ 65-4¾ (2014)
Climbing the Rankings
The Spartans broke into the top-25 rankings after record-setting weekend at the Big Ten Championships. Ranked No. 22 in the NCAA is the men's team, while the women's team improved to 23rd in the nation.
Regionally, the Spartan women finished second in the Great Lakes Region, while the men moved up to a seventh-place finish.
Party like its 1999
Michigan State took home a total of nine medals at the 2014 Big Ten Indoor Championships, including three gold, two silver and four bronze medals. It is the most MSU has won since the Spartan men recorded 11 medal-winning performances en route to earning the 1999 Big Ten Championship title in Madison, Wis. Below is a list of the 2014 Spartan medal-winners.
- Tori Franklin - Gold - triple jump
- Antonio James - Gold- shot put
- Leah O'Connor - Gold- mile
- Tim Ehrhardt - Silver - pole vault
- Women's distance medley relay - Silver
- Caleb Rhynard - Bronze - 3,000m & 5,000m
- Kurt Schneider - Bronze - heptathlon
- Rachele Schulist - Bronze - 3,000m