GENEVA, Ohio – Winning five medals, including one gold, two silver and three bronze, Michigan State kicked off competition at the 2014 Big Ten Indoor Track & Field Championships on Friday at the SPIRE Institute. Antonio James won the gold medal in the shot put, the women’s distance medley relay and pole vaulter Tim Ehrhardt earned silver, while Rachele Schulist and Caleb Rhynard each took home a bronze medal in the 3,000-meter to highlight the first day of conference action. The Spartan men currently sit in third place with 28 points, while the women are in sixth place after day one with 21 points.
“We had some pretty special things happen,” said director of track & field/cross country Walt Drenth. “We asked them to compete. We asked them to get involved in whatever event they were in; just to be all in. I don’t have any complaints about how we approached things for either gender. I thought we did a really good job with a number of people in both genders of really competing well. We advanced a number of people and I expect them to do well. A.J.(Antonio James)’s shot was awesome. Leah (O’Connor) was very good in the distance medley. Our pole vaulters were good. We did some things pretty well in a number of events, so I thought it was a pretty good way to start the meet.”
Breaking the SPIRE Institute record and improving on his own MSU record by nearly a foot, Antonio James won the Big Ten shot put title, his second gold and the third overall conference medal of his career. He posted a record-setting mark of 19.93m/ 65-4¾ to take first-place honors in the event by almost three feet.
The Spartan women broke the MSU distance medley relay record for the second year-in-a-row as the team of freshman Erin Billette, junior Alicia Evans, freshman Aubrey Wilberding and redshirt junior Leah O’Connor clocked a record-setting time of 11:13.82 to win the silver medal in the event.
Winning a silver medal in his first conference meet in the green and white, freshman Tim Ehrhardt posted a runner-up finish in the pole vault with a career-best mark of 5.21m/17-1. Placing fourth in the event was redshirt senior Codi Mattix, who hit a season-high mark of 5.11m/ 16-9¼.
Caleb Rhynard shattered the MSU school record in the 3,000-meter run as he won a bronze medal with a record-setting time of 7:53.34. Also recording personal-bests times was Garrett Zuk (8:10.14) and Nick Soter (8:13.72), who finished 10th and 15th, respectively.
In the women’s 3,000-meter race, redshirt freshman Rachele Schulist also earned a bronze medal in her first ever conference meet as she recorded a time of 9:17.43. Close behind was fellow Spartan Lindsay Clark, who scored fourth-place points with a time of 9:18.72.
In the mile, O’Connor qualified for tomorrow’s final by placing second overall with a time of 4:46.12. Redshirt freshman Sherod Hardt found his way into the final of the men’s mile, posting a career-best time of 4:06.64.
DeVantré Whitelow qualified for the finals of the 60-meter dash as he clocked a time of 6.80 to place fifth overall. Placing seventh overall to qualify for the finals in the 200-meter dash, junior Tori Franklin recorded a time of 24.05 in her first ever race in the event.
In the heptathlon, redshirt senior Kurt Schneider concluded the first day of multi-event competition in second place with 3,291 points. He earned first-place honors in the high jump with a mark of 2.09m/ 6-10¼, while he posted a career-best time of 7.04 to place third in the 60-meter dash. He added a season-best mark of 7.26m/ 23-1, also good for third place. With a career-best throw of 12.88m/42-3¼ in the shot put, Schneider finished fifth in the event.
Redshirt sophomore Lauren Chorny finished seventh in the pole vault to score points for the Spartans with a career-best mark of 3.95m/ 12-11½.
“Not everyone is going to win and not everyone is going to make a final, but if everyone is fully immersed in what we’re trying to do, it’s contagious,” said Drenth. “I thought some people sent the right message, some people got the right message, but we’ve got to get everybody on board with understanding their role and how important it is that they all take responsibility for the outcome. Our top people, Leah, A.J., Caleb Rhyanrd, Tim Ehrhardt – a freshman, Rachele Schulist did a fantastic job, those people did a phenomenal job of really stepping up today and hopefully that spreads to tomorrow and being able to go after what we have left.
The Spartans will be back in action tomorrow, Saturday, March 1 to conclude competition at the conference meet. Events are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. with the men’s heptathlon 60-meter hurdles.