March 11, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Michigan State redshirt junior Leah O’Connor was named Track Athlete of the Year and junior Tori Franklin received Field Athlete of the Year honors for the Great Lakes Region, as announced by the United States Track and Field Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
Franklin set the best triple jump mark in Big Ten indoor track & field history to become the 2014 Big Ten Triple Jump Champion. Also breaking the conference meet record, she improved her own SPIRE record and MSU record with a mark of 13.56m/44-6 jump en route to winning the first Big Ten title of her career. She was won three conference medals overall. Her mark beat out the competition by almost two and a half feet.
“She’s well-coached and a phenomenal competitor,” said director of track & field/cross country Walt Drenth. “She thoroughly enjoys the fray of competition. The chaos and the intensity and the expectations is an environment where Tori (Franklin) thrives. The thing that stood out for me all winter has not only been her consistency, but her leadership. She’s turned into an exceptional leader. She has engaged and embraced the whole team. That sort of mentality that she possesses is contagious. Tori has been outstanding in that respect.”
Named Big Ten Field Athlete of the Championships, Franklin was named Big Ten Field Athlete of the Week back-to-back on Feb. 10 and Feb. 17. She earned an individual win in the triple jump in the last four meets and owns the third best mark in the NCAA.
The 2014 Big Ten Mile Champion, O’Connor ran her second-record setting race of the season, crossing the finish line first in a new conference meet record time of 4:34.35.
She broke a 25 year-old conference meet record set by Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton in 1989, while also improving on her own MSU record for the second time this season. It marked her first indoor title, and fifth Big Ten medal of her career.
“It’s a vote, so people in the Great Lakes clearly voted in her favor,” said Drenth. “It seems like she’s pretty deserving. It’s quite a record. Suzy Favor had Big Ten awards named after her, and was multi-Olympian. All of those things sort of speak for themselves. Being able to eclipse a person of that stature is no easy task.
Her time is the currently ranked No. 6 in the nation. O’Connor also anchored the MSU distance medley relay that earned a silver medal with a new Michigan State record-setting time of 11:13.82. For her performances, she was named to the First-Team All-Big Ten.
In this week’s polls, the women improved to 19th in the nation, while the men sit at 22nd.
“We try to turn track and field into an entire group, that it’s not just the distance runners,” said Drenth. “That’s the thing that has sort of separated them. Same for Tori, it’s not just about one of the jumpers or what’s best for that group, it’s about the team. That’s the part where I feel like the growth has been the greatest.”
Franklin and O’Connor will join seven other Spartans at the 2014 NCAA Indoor Track & Field Championships on Friday and Saturday, March 14 and 15, in Albuquerque, N.M.