WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana – The Michigan State track & field team added six medal-winning performances on the final day of competition for a grand total of 10 medals at the 2014 Big Ten Outdoor Championships. At the conclusion of the meet held at Rankin Track & Field on the campus of Purdue University, the Spartan women finished sixth with 85 points, while the men placed 11th with 37 points.
“I thought we competed pretty well from beginning to end,” said director of track & field/cross country Walt Drenth. “The men are growing. We got a lot of people into Sunday’s events, now we’ve got to finish the job. I thought we did a really nice job Friday through Saturday, and did a pretty good job today. It gets hard on that third day. There’s been a lot of competition, a lot of intensity, a lot of time on the road and that’s just part of the learning process. I think that group will get quite a bit better. We’ll finish the job next year and be appreciatively better because of what we learned this weekend.
“On the women’s side, again we talk about the importance of being good at the end and I thought we did a really nice job right up until the very end. We had people in place. We have a very good 4×400, excellent 200′s. We were right in the hunt with everyone to score points in the 5,000. Now we just have to pull it off. We had a really good ‘get off the mark’ half hour there – Tori (Franklin) won, then Leah (O’Connor) won and the 4×100 got on the podium in third place. So we got really good momentum and they were really willing to fight. I think what we learned today was how hard it is when you get into that last bit, the championship portion of it, with how tough you have to be and how you really just have to think about doing the next thing and not think, ‘man, I’m tired.” Because heck yeah you’re tired. This is where will takes its place and I think we learned a lot today. I’m really excited about that.”
Starting off the day with a bang, junior Tori Franklin won her second triple jump crown as she is now the indoor and outdoor Big Ten champion in the event. She hit a season-best jump of 13.16m/ 43-2¼ to win the sixth Big Ten medal of her career. Also scoring points for the Spartans was senior Ashley Stacey, who placed seventh with a mark of 12.44m/ 40-9¾. In the men’s competition, junior Jarred Gambrell earned a personal-record mark of 15.46m/ 50-8¾ to earn sixth-place points for the Spartans.
“I definitely thought she stayed focused on the win,” said assistant coach Vanitta Kinnard. “That is exactly what she was competing for -to make sure she won. In terms of execution, she maintained her lead and her presence during the competition. She’s right there in the thick of things in terms of competing at the NCAA meet and basically being a top-five jumper in the country. She just has to put things together and she’ll be fine.”
Sophomore Lauren Chorny earned her first Big Ten title, as she won gold in the pole vault with a school-record breaking mark of 4.18m/ 13-8½.
“Obviously, Lauren did really well,” said assistant coach Ceith Creekmur. “I think the big thing with her was just consistency. We didn’t have to make a lot of moves. After every jump, we’re making minor adjustments – move your grip up or down, move the standards forwards or backwards or go up or down poles. We really only made two moves – we started on one pole and moved to the next and kept the standard in place. I think the results will show that consistency was probably the best thing for her. Every bar she made was on the first jump. It was just a copy and paste, and I think that’s ultimately what led to her jumping so well.”
In the 1,500-meter run, redshirt junior Leah O’Connor broke her own school record to win her second title of the championships with a time of 4:15.03. With a major personal record, redshirt sophomore Sara Stassen clocked a time of 4:22.45 to score seventh-place points.
Winning her second Big Ten silver medal, redshirt freshman Rachele Schulist turned in a stellar performance in the 5,000-meter run. She shattered her personal record, crossing the finish line in 16:01.23. Scoring seventh-place points was Lindsay Clark with a time of 16:28.70.
“Rachele ran a really strong race,” said assistant coach Lisa Senakiewich. “She was trying to win the race and anytime you come to a championship meet and have someone who not only has that ability, but can follow it up with that mentality and the guts to go out there and race with Erin Finn, who is a phenomenal runner, is fantastic. I know we’re both really proud of her. It will be really fun to see, throughout Rachele and Erin’s career, to see how they compete against each other as they both mature and get stronger. I was completely pleased with Rachele’s run.”
At her last Big Ten meet, redshirt senior Kaylee Finney went out with a bang as she won a bronze medal in the discus with a mark of 49.61m/ 162-9.
“Kaylee competed great,” said assistant coach Blaine Maag. “It was kind of out of the ordinary for her. If she has a couple of bad throws, she normally struggles to get back into it. She had a foul and a 42-meter throw, which was probably five meters from qualifying for the final and she forgot about it and hit 49.61-meters in the third round and that was pretty good. We had that milestone at Ashland when she went over 50-meters and ever since then she’s been competing great. There was no reason she couldn’t come here and do it again, and she did.”
Winning a bronze medal in the women’s 4×100-meter relay was the team of juniors Jellisa Westney, Alicia Evans, TeJuanna Williams and Lauren Rose, who set the new school record with a NCAA Regional-qualifying time of 44.91. In the men’s race, the team of junior DeVantré Whitelow, sophomores David Washington, Austin Sanders and senior Ross Parsons clocked a time of 40.45 to place fifth overall.
“Wednesday’s practice was a special one where I told the women that they were the best sprint group in the conference,” said assistant coach Randy Gillon. “I meant that. Before they went to run, I reiterated that. You have to run like that, act like that and talk like that. To see them go out there and really come together, it was an emotional race to see them finally run with belief and trust. It was very special. It got us off to a good start. We surely wish the meet may have gone a little differently, but to break a school record and punch their ticket to the regional meet really goes to show that they can run with the best in the region. If they can build upon that, they’ll be on the next plane to Eugene.”
In the 200-meter dash, Evans led the Spartans with a fourth-place finish in a time of 23.79. She was followed by Westney in sixth with a time of 24.07, while Williams finished eighth with a time of 24.27.
Westney also competed in the finals of the 100-meter dash, clocking a time of 11.94 to place seventh. In the men’s race, Whitelow also scored seventh-place points with a career-best time of 10.60. He was followed by Parsons in eighth with a time of 10.72. Senior Jaelynn Pryor represented the Spartans in the 400-meter hurdles, clocking a time of 1:02.78.
In two weeks, the Spartans will be well-represented at the 2014 NCAA East Regional Championships where members of the team will look to qualify for a trip to nationals. The competition will be held on May 29-31 in Jacksonville, Fla.