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Spartan Track & Field Hits the Road in Weekend Slate

Two-time Big Ten champion Leah O'Connor will be competing in her first 3,000-meter steeplechase of the season at the Larry Ellis Invite.

April 17, 2014

EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State track & field team will continue its split competition this weekend as the Spartans set out for meets around the nation. MSU will be represented in the triple jump at the Mt. SAC Relays, in the distance events at the Larry Ellis Invitational as well as at the Jesse Owens Track Classic.

“We tailor or competitive schedule for what is going to be best for them in the end,” said director of track & field/cross country Walt Drenth. “Some of it is the race itself and some of it is just putting their training together and making sure their sequence leads to them being their best at the conference meet. I’m going to remain optimistic. We’ve got to create a sense of urgency. We really have three competitive opportunities remaining before Big Tens, so we’ve got to get going. We see some things happening in practice that we really need to see start translating into competition.”

The 29th-annual Jesse Owens Track Classic will host over 24 collegiate teams to the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium on the campus of Ohio State this weekend. Events will be held on Friday, April 18 and Saturday, April 19. The Big Ten Network will provide coverage of the meet on Sunday, April 27 at 3 p.m. and once again Monday, April 28 at 2 p.m.

Jesse Owens Meet Schedule | Live Results

“We have somewhere in the neighborhood of 42 athletes competing at the Jesse Owens meet,” Drenth said. “They have a good team, and there are typical three or four good teams there as well. For us, it’s reasonable in terms of distance for travel so that we can get a lot of people involved. They’ve been really good to us over the years. It’s a pretty prestigious meet. It doesn’t quite hold the prestige it did maybe 15 years ago, but it meets our competitive needs. They run the distance events in the evening on Friday, and then they run the sprints during the day on Saturday and typically turn them with the wind. They run the meet pretty well.”



Ashley Stacey and Tori Franklin will head west to compete in the triple jump on Saturday at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif. The meet, held at the historic Hilmer Lodge Stadium on the campus Mt. San Antonio College, is in its 56th year of hosting some of the top collegiate and professional track & field athletes in the world.

Mt. SAC Meet Schedule | Live Results

“Coach (Vanitta) Kinnard will take our two women triple jumpers to Mt. SAC out in California,” said Drenth. “It’s hard to find really competitive triple jumps, and this one is a collection of some of the best in the country. It’s a good chance for them.”

At the Larry Ellis Invitational, the members of the women’s distance group will compete in the 3,000-meter steeplechase and the 5,000-meter run. Hosted by Princeton University, the meet will be held at Weaver Stadium with the Spartans competing in the evening on Friday.

Larry Ellis Meet Schedule | Live Results

“We’re sending people to Princeton who we felt like needed to get a national-level run,” said Drenth. “Sara Kroll is just starting to build momentum so we thought it was important for her to have an opportunity to continue to get running a little faster and gain confidence. Leah O’Connor will run her first steeple. Katie Landwehr we feel like is on the verge of being a national-level steeple chaser. We felt like she needed another really competitive race before the conference meet. It’s hard to find good steeple’s, just like triple jumps, and this is going to be an exceptional one. Probably the best kids in the east are going to be there, so it will give them a chance to see the top people along with some post-collegiates and the same thing in the 5,000. It will be Rachele Schulist’s first turn in the 5,000, so it will be good to open events and then with Ali Wiersma, we felt like she needed just a little more in that event.”

Last Time Out
The Spartans showed progress last weekend, competing at the Tennessee Relays on Friday and Saturday. Earning his first collegiate win, redshirt freshman Vincens Gjokaj hit a personal best mark of 53.46m/ 175-5 to earn first-place honors in the discus. Redshirt senior Codi Mattix won his first outdoor event since 2011, hitting a season-high mark of 5.00m/ 16-4¾ in the fewest attempts to beat out the competition. On the track, the women's 4x100-meter relay team finished second overall as the team of juniors Jellisa Westney, Alicia Evans, TeJuanna Williams and junior Lindsey Seymour turned in a season-best time of 45.32.

Meanwhile, several members of the team stepped up while staying in-state at the Don Kleinow Invitational at Siena Heights. Redshirt sophomore Stephon Foster won the 400-meter dash in his first race of the season as he crossed the finish line in personal record time of 48.38. Freshman Aubrey Wilberding took first-place honors in the 400-meter dash, racing in the event for the first time and crossing the finish line in 55.64. The MSU women took first and second place in the 800-meter run as freshman Erin Billette (2:13.08) finished first, followed by teammate Angela Swain (2:15.83). Winning the 1,500-meter run was redshirt sophomore Sara Stassen with a time of 4:36.26. Redshirt freshman Jordan Keefe earned a win in the pole vault, hitting a season-best mark of 3.83m/ 12-6¾.

Qualifying for the NCAA Preliminary Championships
Qualification to NCAA Preliminary Championship Competition is based on the descending order list for the season, segregated by east and west sites, and prepared solely from the mandatory submission of meet results during the season. For each individual event contested at each Preliminary Championship Competition, the top-48 declared student-athletes will be accepted into the competition. For each relay event contested at each Preliminary Championship Competition, the top-24 declared relay teams will be accepted into the competition.

Climbing the Rankings
In the latest USTFCCCA national rankings, the Spartan women sit at No. 34 in the NCAA. Regionally, Michigan State is ranked second on the women’s side and the Spartan men are seventh. Below are the individual Spartans on their mark to earning a spot at the NCAA East Regional Championships:

Name Rank (B1G/East/NCAA) Event Mark/Time
Sarah Birkmeier 3rd/11th/18th Pole Vault 4.15m/ 13-7.25
Melanie Brender 2nd/15th/31st 10,000m 34:32.10
Ben Carruthers 3rd/17th/44th 10,000m 29:30.99
Lauren Chorny 4th/13th/30th Pole Vault 4.05m/13-3.5

Lindsay Clark

2nd/12th/21st 5,000m 16;09.93
Tim Ehrhardt 9th/31st/73rd Pole Vault 5.05m/16-6.75
Alicia Evans 6th/33rd/61st 200m 23.73
Jarred Gambrell 4th/26th/41st Triple Jump 15.24m/50-0
Vincens Gjokaj 10th/34th/68th Discus 53.46m/175-5
Owen Hughes 8th/42nd/90th High Jump 2.06m/6-9
Antonio James 3rd/7th/13th Discus 59.45m/ 195-0
5th/10th/18th Hammer Throw 64.51m/ 211-8
5th/15th/26th Shot Put 18.56m/60-10.75
Connor Kostrzewa 10th/37th/73rd Hammer Throw 59.76m/196-1
Sara Kroll 4th/21st/35th 5,000m 16:20.51
Katie Landwehr 6th/10th/21st 3,000m Steeplechase 10:19.85
Codi Mattix 12th/40th/92nd Pole Vault 5.00m/16-4.75
Ben Miller 12th/44th/94th 3,000m Steeplechase 9:13.63
Leah O'Connor 5th/26th/48th 800m 2:08.02
Julia Otwell 3rd/13th/24th 5,000m 16:10.95
Kassie Powell 6th/20th/38th Pole Vault 4.00m/13-1.50
Caleb Rhynard 1st/7th/9th 5,000m 13:49.60
Kurt Schneider 5th/20th/48th High Jump 2.10m/6-10.75
Ashley Stacey 2nd/11th/18th Triple Jump 12.80m/ 42-0
6th/27th/43rd Long Jump 6.07m/ 19-11
David Washington 12th/37th/75th 400m Hurdles 52.73
Jellisa Westney 7th/43rd/77th 200m 23.83
Alexis Wiersma 5th/28th/48th 5,000m 16:26.99

Record Breaking Spartans
In just the first meet of the season at the Raleigh Relays, the Spartans set two outdoor school records. Shattering the 5,000-meter record by nearly six seconds, Caleb Rhynard crossed the finish line in 13:49.60 to break a 37 year-old MSU record set by All-American Herb Lindsey in 1977 (13:55.20). Also breaking the hammer throw record was Antonio James, hitting a mark of 64.51m/ 211-8 to place second overall.

Academic Excellence
Five members of the MSU track & field team were recognized at the 2014 Spartan Academic Excellence Gala on April 14. Antonio James won with the Multicultural Award, presented to the student-athlete who promotes inclusion as well as exhibits strong leadership in the areas of community service and diversity. Also honored were the male and female Scholar-Athlete Award recipients, who have reached at least junior academic status, received a minimum of one varsity letter and own the highest cumulative GPA on the team. Ryan Haag and Julia Otwell were the winners from the track & field team, while Caleb Rhynard and Emma Drenth won the award for the cross country teams.

Conference Honors
Kicking off the outdoor season with an all-around great performance, Ashley Stacey was named Big Ten Field Athlete of the Week, as announced by the conference office on April 2. It marked her first weekly outdoor conference honor of her career. The Riverdale, Ill., native won the triple jump competition for the fourth time in her MSU career. The current MSU record holder in the long jump, Stacey finished third overall in the event. She also ran a career-best time in the 100-meter dash of 12.29 and anchored the 4x100-meter relay that finished fifth with a time of 46.18.

Follow the Spartans
Follow along with the Tennessee Relays through live stats available here and follow @MSUTrackFieldXC on twitter for updates throughout the season.

Next Up
The Spartans will be busy next weekend, as Michigan State will be represented at the Drake Relays (Des Moines, Iowa), the GINA Relays (Hillsdale, Mich.) and the Penn Relays (Philadelphia, Penn.).

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