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MSU Track & Field Travels to 2014 Big Ten Outdoor Championships

Redshirt junior Antonio James will look to defend his discus title at the 2014 Big Ten Championships.

May 14, 2014

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EAST LANSING, Michigan - The Spartans will face off against conference foes this weekend as the Michigan State track & field team travels to West Lafayette for the 2014 Big Ten Outdoor Championships. Hosted by Purdue University, events will be contested at the Rankin Track and Field beginning on Friday, May 16 and conclude on Sunday, May 18.

MSU at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships
Michigan State owns four Big Ten Championship titles in the program's history, including three for the men in 1965, 1966 and 1972 and one for the women in 1982. In total, the men have earned 76 event title wins and the women have won 38 titles.

At the 2013 outdoor conference meet, the women finished fifth overall with 76 points and the men earned 33.5 points for 10th.

Redshirt junior Leah O'Connor took home two gold medals at the meet to earn a career outdoor total of three event titles. She began by defending her 2012 3,000-meter steeplechase title, pushing ahead in the last 200-meters to clock a then personal record of 9:53.53. The next day, she pulled away for another victory in her first ever 5,000-meter race. O'Connor has won every Big Ten outdoor race in which she has contested.

Among a highly competitive field, redshirt junior Antonio James beat out the rest of the Big Ten with his last attempt in the finals to win gold. He threw for a mark of 58.25m/ 191-1 to earn his first gold medal at Big Tens, second of his career.

The Spartans earned two spots on the podium in the women's triple jump as junior Tori Franklin finished second overall with a mark of 13.16m/ 43-2¼ and senior Ashley Stacey hit a personal-best mark of 12.77m/ 41-10¾ to win bronze. It marked the second outdoor medal for Franklin and the third for Stacey. Franklin also scored eighth-place points in the finals of the 400-meter dash with a time of 56.76.

Former Spartan Beth Rohl earned her third Big Ten medal in the hammer throw, fifth overall, hitting a season-best mark of 60.25m/ 197-8 for her second-straight bronze medal-winning throw in the hammer at the conference meet. She earned her second medal of the meet, winning gold in the discus throw. She led the field from her first throw and never let go of her winning mark of 55.22m/ 181-2. At her last conference meet, she won the sixth Big Ten outdoor medal of her career. Derik Peterman won his second Big Ten medal in the men's pole vault, taking bronze in his last Big Ten conference meet. He recorded a mark of 5.06m/ 16-7¼ to tie for a third-place finish.

Last Time Out
Two more Spartans qualified for the NCAA Regionals as MSU concluded the outdoor regular season at the Last Chance weekend hosted by GVSU.

Clocking a NCAA Regional-qualifying time of 59.00 in the 400-meter hurdles, senior Jaelynn Pryor finished second overall in just her first race of the season.

Redshirt freshman Hannah Sailar punched her ticket to the NCAA Regional Championships, hitting a career-high mark of 3.98m/ 13-0¾ for a runner-up finish in the pole vault.  The Spartan men finished one-two, led by freshman Tim Ehrhardt's mark of 5.00m/ 16-4¾ to take first-place honors. Redshirt senior Codi Mattix placed second with a mark of 4.85m/ 15-11. 

Earning his sixth win in the discus this season, redshirt junior Antonio James earned his sixth win in the discus this season as he threw for a mark of 60.08m/ 197-1. In fifth place was redshirt freshman Vinny Gjokaj, recording a mark of 47.95m/ 157-4. Gjokaj also turned in a third-place finish in the hammer throw, posting a mark of 55.62m/ 182-6. Redshirt senior Chris Hessell hit his personal record in the shot put with a mark of 17.14m/ 56-3 to finish second overall. He was followed by Gjokaj, who placed fourth with a mark of 16.77/ 55-0¼. 

Junior DeVantre Whitelow won the men's 100-meter dash, posting a time of 10.79. With a personal-best time of 14.74 in the 110-meter hurdles, redshirt senior Kurt Schneider finished fourth in preparation for his decathlon competition in the post season.

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. 47 in the NCAA. Regionally, Michigan State remains No. 1 in the Great Lakes for the third-straight week 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:

Name Rank (B1G/East/NCAA) Event Mark/Time
Sarah Birkmeier 4th/12th/23rd Pole Vault 4.15m/13-7.25
Melanie Brender 3rd/35th/62nd 10,000m 34:32.10
Ben Carruthers 5th/26th/62nd 10,000m 29:30.99
Lauren Chorny 6th/19th/35th Pole Vault 4.12m/13-6.25

Lindsay Clark

6th/30th/58th 5,000m 16:09.93
Chris Collier 10th/37th/72nd 3,000m Steeplechase 8:59.48
Tim Ehrhardt 11th/31st/83rd Pole Vault 5.10m/16-8.75
Alicia Evans 2nd/16th/33rd 200m 23.32
Kaylee Finney 6th/27th/70th Discus 50.70m/166-4
Tori Franklin 2nd/15th/21st Triple Jump 12.92m/42-4.75
Jarred Gambrell 6th/33rd/62nd Triple Jump 15.24m/50-0
Vincens Gjokaj 14th/42nd/86th Discus 53.46m/175-5
Antonio James 3rd/7th/16th Discus 60.15m/197-4
2nd/11th/14th Shot Put 19.35m/63-6
5th/13th/22nd Hammer Throw 64.51m/211-8
Connor Kostrzewa 12th/43rd/90th Hammer Throw 59.76m/196-1
Sara Kroll 9th/46th/84th 5,000m 16:20.51
Katie Landwehr 4th/11th/18th 3,000m Steeplechase 10:09.87
Leah O'Connor 1st/2nd/3rd 3,000m Steeplechase 9:44.35
2nd/7th/11th 1,500m 4:16.40
Julia Otwell 7th/31st/60th 5,000m 16:10.95
6th/44th/78th 1,500m 4:22.26
Kassie Powell 8th/30th/57th Pole Vault 4.00m/13-1.50
Jaelynn Pryor 5th/31st/53rd 400-meter hurdles 59.00
Caleb Rhynard 4th/9th/30th 5,000m 13:49.60
Lauren Rose 7th/42nd/75th 100m hurdles 13.63
Hannah Sailar 9th/34th/72nd Pole Vault 3.98m/13-0.75
Kurt Schneider 8th/31st/70th High Jump 2.10m/6-10.75
Rachele Schulist 3rd/26th/51st 5,000m 16:08.36
Ashley Stacey 4th/22nd/32nd Triple Jump 12.80m/42-0
7th/44th/69th Long Jump 6.07m/19-11
David Washington 15th/47th/109th 400m Hurdles 52.62
Jellisa Westney 4th/36th/71st 200m 23.58
Alexis Wiersma 8th/43rd/77th 5,000m 16:18.85

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. 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.

Redshirt junior Leah O'Connor led the way as the Spartan women dominated the 1,500-meter, taking home first through third place at Dave Rankin Invite. She broke the MSU record with a time of 4:16.40 to win the event. It is currently the sixth-best time in the nation.

Setting a new school record in the pole vault at Dave Rankin Invite, redshirt sophomore Lauren Chorny took first-place honors with a record-setting mark of 4.12m/ 13-6¼.

Academic Honors
Five members of the MSU track & field team were recognized at the 2014 Spartan Academic Excellence Gala on April 14. Antonio James won 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, Illinois 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 April 23. It marked the first weekly outdoor conference honor of her career, and MSU's 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.

Next Up
In two weeks, members of the team who have earned qualifying times/marks will compete at the 2014 NCAA East Regional Championships in Jacksonville, Florida. Beginning May 29-31, the Spartans will look to advance to the NCAA Championships in Eugene, Oregon on June 11-14.



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