April 22, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Coming off another successful weekend, the Michigan State track & field team will continue split competition as several Spartans look to improve marks in preparation for the conference meet. MSU will have members of the team competing at the Drake Relays (Des Moines, Iowa), the Hillsdale GINA Relays (Hillsdale, Mich.), as well as the Ashland Alumni Open (Ashland, Ohio).
“We’re making some progress,” said director of track & field/cross country Walt Drenth. “For our national-level kids, it’s time to get going. It’s Kurt (Schneider)’s first multi, last weekend was Leah (O’Connor)’s first steeple and Tori (Franklin)’s first turn at the triple jump. So with the kids that have already been at the NCAA Championships, we’re trying to get them some momentum now. For the rest of us, we’ve just got to keep getting better. It seems like we’re making progress. The spring never feels like it’s long enough. It’s a balance between training and competing, add in travel and all those things take a toll. In my opinion, our biggest objective is to have them ready to run from mid-May to mid-June. So everything we do in planning is for that time period. Not everyone races every week, but this week, we need to get some work done.”
The 105th running of the Drake Relays will take place April 23-26, and will host 17 athletes that have medaled at either the most recent Olympics, World Championships or both. Representing the Spartans will be redshirt senior Kurt Schneider, competing in his first decathlon of the outdoor season, his first since the 2012 Drake Relays where he scored a career-high 7,269 points. He will be joined by senior Ashley Stacey and junior Tori Franklin, as both look to make strides in the triple jump.
“It’s hard to find a competitive multi-event and Kurt (Schneider), obviously with his performance qualifying for the (indoor) nationals, is one of the top people in the country so we need to get him into the level,” said Drenth. “The same thing goes for the triple jumpers. It didn’t go that well last weekend [at Mt. SAC Relays], but they need competition. It’s hard to find high-level competition in some events, so we picked Drake. We often go to Drake with relays, but with the exam schedule and travel, we were probably better off not going for a long week.”
MSU will have a larger group stay in-state as members of the team will make the short trip over to the Hillsdale College GINA Relays. The 48th-annual meet will take place held April 24-26 at the Ken Herrick Outdoor Track and feature several teams throughout the region.
“We’re trying to take advantage of some individual opportunities and some relays,” Drenth said. “Right now, we’ve got a lot of things on the schedule, but whether we compete in all of them will likely be predicated by the weather. If we get there and its really nasty, im not sure we’ll try to do as many events say as Coach has got them entered. In the distance group, we’re going to take most of our younger group again and give them a chance. We feel like they need some good turns, so they’re the ones we are primarily focusing on this weekend.”
Meanwhile, the Spartan throwers will travel to Ashland, Ohio for the Ashland Alumni Open. Events will be held on April 25 and 26 at Ferguson Field.
“It’s a really good meet for our throwers and it’s one that they will benefit from,” said Drenth. “Just getting in that high-level competition will really prepare them for the conference meet. Drake is not a great place to throw. The venues for throwing are kind of scattered all over the stadium, so as a coach you’re all over the place. The Ashland meet is designed for the throwers. They have an exceptional throws program at Ashland, so it gives us a chance to get the competition we need.”
Last Time Out
The Spartans had several breakthrough performances last weekend at the Larry Ellis Invitational and the Jesse Owens Classic.
Shaving nearly 10 seconds of her personal record, redshirt junior Leah O'Connor ran a career-best time of 9:44.35 to place fourth overall in her first 3,000-meter steeplechase of the season at the Larry Ellis Invite. In her first outdoor 5,000-meter run of her Spartan career, redshirt freshman Rachele Schulist turned in a third-place finish with a time of 16:08.46, the fastest time on the team this season.
The women sprinters stepped up to the blocks with a one-two punch in the 200-meter dash, as juniors Alicia Evans and Jellisa Westney finished first and second, respectively. Evans had a breakthrough to earn a career-best time of 23.58, while Westney barely missed her personal record but posted a season-best time of 23.69.
With a breakthrough performance in the men's 3,000-meter steeplechase, sophomore Chris Collier took first-place honors as he posted a personal-best time of 8:59.48. It is the seventh-best time in the Big Ten this season, and the fastest time by a Spartan since 2011. Earning his third win in the event this season, fifth of his career, redshirt junior Antonio James took first place in the men's discus at the Jesse Owens Classic with a throw of 57.43m/ 188-5.
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 improved to No. 32 in the NCAA. Regionally, Michigan State is ranked second on the women’s side and the Spartan men are ninth. Below are the individual Spartans on their mark to earning a spot at the NCAA East Regional Championships:
|Sarah Birkmeier||3rd/12th/19th||Pole Vault||4.15m/13-7.25|
|Lauren Chorny||5th/17th/35th||Pole Vault||4.05m/13-3.5|
|Chris Collier||8th/27th/58th||3,000m Steeplechase||8:59.48|
|Tim Ehrhardt||12th/35th/84th||Pole Vault||5.05m/16-6.75|
|Tori Franklin||3rd/19th/30th||Triple Jump||12.75m/41-10|
|Jarred Gambrell||5th/26th/43rd||Triple Jump||15.24m/50-0|
|Owen Hughes||10th/47th/99th||High Jump||2.06m/6-9|
|Connor Kostrzewa||10th/39th/78th||Hammer Throw||59.76m/196-1|
|Katie Landwehr||3rd/7th/10th||3,000m Steeplechase||10:09.87|
|Codi Mattix||12th/46th/105th||Pole Vault||5.00m/16-4.75|
|Ben Miller||14th/36th/80th||3,000m Steeplechase||9:03.92|
|Leah O'Connor||1st/2nd/2nd||3,000m Steeplechase||9:44.35|
|Kassie Powell||6th/22nd/42nd||Pole Vault||4.00m/13-1.50|
|Kurt Schneider||5th/23rd/53rd||High Jump||2.10m/6-10.75|
|Ashley Stacey||2nd/12th/20th||Triple Jump||12.80m/42-0|
|David Washington||12th/36th/84th||400m Hurdles||52.62|
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.
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.
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.
Junior Leah O’Connor earned Big Ten Track Athlete of the Week, from the conference office on Wednesday. It marks the first weekly outdoor conference honor of her career, and she becomes the first female outdoor honoree since Nicole Bush on May 6, 2009. O'Connor shaved nearly 10 seconds off her personal record in her first 3,000-meter steeplechase of the season at the Larry Ellis Invitational last Friday, setting a new career-best time of 9:44.35 to finish fourth overall. Her time leads the Big Ten by over ten seconds, and is currently the second-best time in the NCAA. It is also just five seconds away from Nicole Bush’s school-record time of 9:39.38 set in 2009.
Follow the Spartans
Follow along with the Drake Relays through live results and follow @MSUTrackFieldXC on twitter for updates throughout the season.
The Spartans will have another busy weekend ahead, as Michigan State will compete at the Dave Rankin Invitational at Purdue (West Lafayette, Ind.), the Billy Hayes Invitational at Indiana (Bloomington, Ind.), as well as the Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford (Palo Alto, Calif.).