March 27, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Hoping to ride the momentum of a strong indoor season, the Michigan State track and field team will officially kick off the outdoor season at the Raleigh Relays this weekend. Hosted by N.C. State University, the meet will take place on Friday, March 28 and Saturday, March 29 at the Paul H. Derr Track and Field facility.
“This meet suits a lot of people’s needs,” said director of track and field/cross country Walt Drenth. “Nearly every event is competitive. The weather accommodates us. This meet will have teams from the Mid-Atlantic, the Northeast and the Southeast. It’s a nice array of teams. Typically, it’s a highly-competitive meet for this time of year. One of the things that we promise our recruits is that we’re going to get them to national-level events. Tori Franklin and Antonio James, those kids need to see national-level competition so that when they go to the NCAAs, they’re prepared. It’s how you get better and something we think is very important. You’ll see it throughout the course of the season, us taking individuals and parts of the team to places that make sure they are meeting those competitive needs.
“I thought at the end of the year, we were a pretty determined team and were pretty locked into the competition. So I hope that we jump in where we left off from that standpoint.”
The track events will begin Friday morning at approximately 8:45 a.m. on a running schedule through 10:35 p.m. Friday’s field events are scheduled for 10 a.m., with the final event to begin at 2:30 p.m. On Saturday, events will begin on the track at 9:30 a.m. and continue through 4:45 p.m., while the field events are slated for a 10 a.m. start with the last event to begin at 2 p.m.
Michigan State returns nine All-Americans from last year’s outdoor team and two Big Ten Champions.
Leading the Spartans on the men’s side will be redshirt junior Antonio James, who will look to defend his Big Ten discus title and finished 10th overall in the event at the 2013 NCAA Outdoor Championships. Redshirt sophomore Caleb Rhynard will try to return to the national meet after becoming one of just three freshman to qualify in the 5,000-meter run, placing 16th-place overall to earn second-team All-American honors.
Looking to capitalize on a strong indoor season, redshirt senior Kurt Schneider will represent the Spartans in the decathlon. After redshirting the 2013 season to train, Schneider will prepare to compete in the outdoor multi-event for the first time since 2012. In the jumps, junior Jarred Gambrell will highlight both the long and triple jump for the Spartans.
On the women’s side, junior Tori Franklin will look to build on her fourth-place finish in the triple jump at the 2013 NCAA Championships. With a personal-record jump of 13.56m/ 44-6, she broke her own school record and earned a career-high finish at the national meet. Also a First-Team All-American, redshirt junior Leah O’Connor will look to earn her third-straight Big Ten title in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Redshirt junior Sarah Birkmeier, who placed fourth in the pole vault at the Big Ten Championships, will compete with hopes of returning to the national meet as she earned honorable mention All-American honors in 2013. The first Spartan 4x400-meter relay to advance to the NCAA Championships since 1985, the MSU sophomores Jellisa Westney, Alicia Evans and Jaelynn Pryor hope to return to the national meet to represent the Spartans in the sprints and relays.
Next weekend, Michigan State will host the annual Spartan Invitational at the Ralph Young Track and Field Facility on April 4 and 5.