Track & Field
Spartan Track & Field Continues Road Competition
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
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
Climbing the Rankings
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.
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