May 13, 2012
MADISON, WIS - In her first official season as a Spartan, redshirt freshman Leah O’Connor did what very few will ever do in their first outdoor championship race.
Earn a gold medal and out-kick several national-class runners in the process.
O’Connor won Michigan State’s first gold medal of the 2012 Big Ten Outdoor Championships in the Women’s 3000-Meter Steeplechase by holding on to the lead pack, creating a slow separation, and out running Wisconsin’s Ashley Beutler and Michigan’s Alexandra Leptich in the final moments for a split-second win.
The victory - in a time of 10:12.36 - was a major personal-record for O’Connor, who went as low as 10:25.65 at the Penn Relays two weeks ago.
“It feels surreal and it’s still sinking in,” O’Connor said after her first Big Ten win. “I’m really pleased with how the entire race played out. It was one of those races where I wasn’t focused on anything but my race.”
Ashley Stacey claimed her third career medal in the Big Ten Championship competition, earning a bronze in the Women’s Long Jump. Stacey slowly moved her way up in distance throughout the event, and on her final attempt, she posted an effort of 5.98 meters (19-07 ½).
“She is a gamer,” said Assistant Coach Chris Bostwick who coaches Stacey in the jumps. “The one thing about Ashley Stacey is that she is always going to be ready to compete. Regardless of what has happened in the past, if you put her up against good competition in a championship setting she is going to take care of business – and she did that today.”
MSU also found success in sprints and mid-distance, with three athletes from the women’s side and two from the men’s team moving on to Sunday’s finals.
In the Women’s 400-Meters, Alysson Bodenbach won her preliminary heat, running a personal-best 53.64 seconds. Bodenbach has seen steady improvement in the event since the beginning of her collegiate track career. Her personal best during her freshman campaign was 55.03 - and she has been able to progress to 53.89 – a time she achieved this past April at the Jesse Owens Classic.
Senior Leslie Aririguzo placed third in her heat, nearly breaking her own school record in the Women’s 100-Meter Hurdles. Aririguzo ran 13.47, just missing the record of 13.46 which she set back in 2011 during the outdoor season.
Women’s 400-meter hurdles saw Jaelynn Pryor place second in her heat, smashing her old personal-best with a time of 58.13.
In the men’s 800-meters, senior Stephen Humes and Joe Banyai both ran personal bests in their preliminary heats. Both broke the 1:50 barrier for the first time in their careers – with Humes unleashing a furious kick and passing four competitors in the final lap in the third preliminary heat to finish in 1:48.99. Banyai - who missed the entire indoor season with injuries – qualified for the finals by placing fourth in his heat with a time of 1:49.28.
In throws, junior Lonnie Pugh earned five points for MSU in the men’s discus. Pugh placed fourth, just missing the podium, with a toss of 57.95 meters (190-01).
In the men’s high jump, Kurt Schneider was a sixth-place finisher, earning three points for the Spartan men. Schneider and teammates Kevin Jackson (ninth place), and Owen Hughes (tenth) topped out at a height of 6-11 (2.11 meters), with Schneider scoring due to the fewest missed attempts.
At the end of Day 2, the Spartan women are currently in fifth place with 25 points while the men are in seventh with 14 points.