May 1, 2014
EAST LANSING, Mich. - After several weekends of split competition, the Michigan State track & field team will join together to compete at the Dave Rankin Invitational at Purdue University. The meet will be a trial run for the Spartans trip to West Lafayette, Ind., in two weeks for the 2014 Big Ten Outdoor Championships.
“We’re taking everybody competing to Purdue,” said director of track & field/cross country Walt Drenth. “We think it’s important to have our team together for the first time since N.C. State. You go into the conference meet and it’s pretty difficult, so spending time with each other is important to reconnect and have a stronger sense of team. I think the responsibility to each other helps. The other advantages of going down to Purdue together, because they are the host of the Big Ten Championships, is to get comfortable with the rings and runways and the manner in which they administer a meet. We’ll stay in the same hotel, eat similar food, and just get a little bit of a comfort zone before we get down there.
“Purdue has a good team on both genders, so I expect it to be pretty competitive for us. For most of us, it’s a tune up. It’s the last chance to meet some standards that we put out there for them - whether it be making the first round of nationals or for some events it’s one more chance to make the conference meet roster. There are a variety of objectives at this meet, but really, we want to see everyone fully engaged. Some of them will be in primary events, some of them will be tune ups for the championship, so everyone’s agenda is a little different, but the objectives are still the same - we’ve got to be competitive, we’ve got to be better. Hopefully, we get everybody hitting so that we get some momentum built before we go back down there in two weeks.”
Last Time Out
The Spartan throwers had a successful outing at the Ashland Alumni Open last weekend at Ashland University. Taking home first-place honors in the discus elite competition at the Ashland Open, redshirt junior Antonio James improved his own MSU record, set a new facility record and broke 60-meter barrier with a career-best mark of 60.15m/197-4. Earning her first collegiate win in the discus, redshirt senior Kaylee Finney set a new personal record by close to 11 feet with a mark of 50.70m/ 166-4. It marks the second-best throw in the Big Ten this season.
Meanwhile, at the Hillsdale College GINA Relays, the Spartan sprinters turned in personal-record performances with an added win the women’s 4x100-meter relay. For the second-straight week, juniors Alicia Evans and Jellisa Westney went one-two in the 200-meter dash championship. Evans clocked a new personal record of 23.32 to take first-place honors, while Westney turned in a runner-up finish with her career-best time of 23.58. The Spartan men also dominated in the 200-meter dash championship, led by sophomore David Washington with a runner-up finish and career-best time of 21.49. In third place was sophomore Austin Sanders, who also posted a personal-record time of 21.51. Adding a third personal-best performance in the event, sophomore Ross Parsons clocked a time of 21.54 to finish fourth. In addition to anchoring the winning women’s 4x100-meter relay, junior Lauren Rose went on to earn an individual win in the 100-meter hurdles, recording a personal-best time of 13.63.
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. 42 in the NCAA. Regionally, Michigan State improved to the No. 1 spot in the Great Lakes on the women’s side and the Spartan men are 10th. Below are the individual Spartans on their mark to earning a spot at the NCAA East Regional Championships:
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. James followed up by breaking his own school record in the discus, breaking the 60-meter barrier and the Ashland facility record by hitting a mark of 60.15m/197-4 to win first-place honors.
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.
The Spartans will compete sparingly next weekend in preparation for the 2014 Big Ten Outdoor Championships hosted by Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., on May 16-18.