2008 Big Ten Championships Preview
Feb. 29, 2008
All 10 conference squads will converge upon the Camp Randall Memorial Sports Center on the University of Wisconsin campus to vie for the title at the 2008 Big Ten Men's Indoor Track and Field Championships. Among the field are two teams ranked among the nation's elite in No. 13 Wisconsin and No. 22 Michigan, as well as numerous individuals among the NCAA's top performers in their respective events.
Illinois has won 21 Big Ten indoor championships in its history, tied for second-most in the conference, and looks to add another in 2008. The Illini will rely heavily on 2007 600-meter dash champion Gakolegewang Masheto and second-team All-Big Ten honoree Nick Brown. Earlier this season, Masheto set a new NCAA record in the 500-meter dash, timing in at 1:00.82. Brown has a chance to rack up major points in the long jump and triple jump as he placed second and fourth, respectively, in those events last year.
Indiana seeks guidance from long/triple jumper Kyle Jenkins. He returns as the defending triple jump champion and also received fourth-place honors in the long jump. In the pole vault, juniors Blayne Burkholder and Jeff Coover look to once again place in the top five of competition as they did last year.
Iowa looks to improve upon its seventh-place finish from a year ago with a strong core of veterans. Senior Shane Maier and junior John Hickey went one-two in the shot put last year while senior Micah VanDenend took second in the 5000-meters.
Michigan has a chance to advance its third-place showing from 2007. Junior Lex Williams owns the nation's second-best time in the 5000-meters and returns as defending Big Ten champion in that event. Junior speedster Adam Harris has been clocked at 6.64 in the 60-meter dash this season, which ties him for fifth-best in the country. Also, Michigan's distance medley relay team is poised to break the tape once again in 2008 as it did in last year.
Jeremy Orr leads Michigan State into Madison, owning the fifth-best 400-meter time in the nation at 46.73. Looking to help the Spartans in the field is junior thrower Kyle Strotbaum, as he set a new school record in the weight throw this season with a heave of 18.05 meters.
After a second-place finish last year, Minnesota is looking for its first conference title since 1998. Sprinters and mid-distance runners are the backbone for the 2008 Gopher squad. 2007's 600-meter runner-up Walter Langkau and 800-meter runner-up Hans Storvick are among the top returners.
Junior Ryan Fritz leads a deep Penn State squad that finished eighth at last year's championships. Fritz was a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2007 after winning the high jump. Freshman Sam Borchers is having a stellar rookie campaign and set a new Nittany Lion mile record posting a 4:01.98.
Piloting Purdue is a very talented group of underclassmen. Boilermaker freshmen and sophomores have earned five Big Ten weekly honors this season. Sophomore Jon Pullum has the ninth-best weight throw in the country. Freshman Josh Hembrough has the nation's 11th best 60-meter hurdles time, and freshman Shane Crawford owns the second-fastest 60-meter dash time in the Big Ten.
Wisconsin head coach Ed Nuttycombe and his Badger squad picked up their seventh-consecutive indoor team title in 2007. Wisconsin will be led by some of the nation's best distance runners. NCAA automatic qualifier Brandon Bethke owns the fourth-fastest time in the country in the 3000-meters and teammate Jack Bolas holds the NCAA's sixth-fastest mile time. 2007 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Craig Miller will also be in the mix as he placed second in the mile last year.