Outdoor Track and Field Championships Begin on Friday

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May 10, 2007

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Three-time defending Big Ten Champion Wisconsin will look to become the first track squad since 1983 to win four consecutive team titles at the 2007 Big Ten Outdoor Track and Field Championships, hosted by Penn State, on May 11-13. The three-day event will take place at Nittany Lion Outdoor Track and begins Friday with decathlon competition starting at Noon ET.

Wisconsin and Michigan represent the Big Ten in the Trackwire Top 25 as the Badgers are tied for 16th and the Wolverines are tied for 25th. Michigan has the most all-time conference championships with 30, but has not won a crown since 1983. Wisconsin owns 15 titles, including the last three and six of the last seven. With a championship, Wisconsin head coach Ed Nuttycombe would become the Big Ten's all-time leader with 23 team titles, surpassing former Indiana swimming and diving mentor Doc Counsilman.

Penn State last hosted the outdoor event in 1996, posting a third-place finish. The Nittany Lions have placed seventh in each of the last three years and are still looking for their first Big Ten championship.

Sprints and Hurdles

With a win in the 100-meter dash, Wisconsin's Demi Omole would become the first athlete to ever win the event in four consecutive years. The senior put up the conference's best time this season at the Drake Relays on April 28, clocking in at 10:21, which is the fifth-fastest in NCAA Division I this season. Not far behind, Minnesota's Ibrahim Kabia has also qualified for NCAA Regionals with his time of 10:47 at the Sun Angel Classic.

Omole also owns the top time in the 200-meter dash at 20.81 for his second NCAA Regional qualification. In the second seed, Purdue's Jh'Rome Tuggle qualified for regional competition in his last tune-up before the championships, clocking in at 21.07 at the Billy Hayes Invitational.

Tuggle is one of five Big Ten athletes to have qualified for NCAA Regionals in the 400 meters, clocking in at 46.55 at the Billy Hayes Invitational. Illinois' Lesiba Masheto owns the top time in the event at 45.41, which is the fastest time in the nation this outdoor season. Minnesota's Aaron Buzard owns the next-best time at 46.16, and looks to move up after finishing second at the 2006 championships.

Purdue's Keith Hopkins owns the fastest time in the conference in the 110-meter hurdles, clocking in at 13.59 at the Dave Rankin Invitational on April 21. Two of Hopkins' teammates have also posted NCAA Regional qualifying times in the event in Rickey Pinkney (13.91) and Brian Kaluf (14.22). In all, six Big Ten athletes will go to regionals in the event, including last year's conference champion, Jeff Porter of Michigan, who owns the Big Ten's second-fastest time at 13.79.

Nine Big Ten athletes have punched their tickets to NCAA Regionals in the 400-meter hurdles, including three from Illinois. Adrian Walker owns the conference's best time at 51.06, while Joey Hodges is third at 51.57, and Anthony Young is seventh with a time of 51.94. Matt Comer and Elon Simms from Ohio State finished second and third, respectively at last year's championships, and are preliminarily seeded fifth and fourth, respectively, for this year's competition.

Middle Distance

Michigan's Andrew Ellerton leads the field in the 800-meter run with a seed time of 1:48.64, and is one of seven Big Ten athletes to qualify to NCAA Regionals in the event. Last year's runner-up, Mark Miller of Penn State, is preliminarily seeded fifth with a time of 1:49.81.

Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin front the field in the 1,500-meter run as four Wolverines, two Spartans and two Badgers own NCAA Regional qualifying times. Michigan's Lex Williams holds the fastest mark in the conference at 3:42.38, and will be joined by teammates Justin Switzer (3:45.32), Mike Woods (3:46.97) and Sean McNamara (3:47.34). Wisconsin freshmen Craig Miller (3:42.67) and John Bolas (3:43.82) own the second- and third-fastest times, respectively, while MSU's Jim Pancoast (3:46.18) and Ian Boyle (3:47.55) have also clocked qualifying times.

Distance

Each of the conference's top-10 performers in the 5,000-meter run have earned NCAA Regional qualifying times, including Wisconsin's Chris Solinsky, whose time of 13:30.54 is the best in the Big Ten and the fifth-fastest in the nation. Solinsky's teammates Matt Withrow (14:07.31), Andrew Lacy (14:07.37) and Christian Wagner (14:09.05) own three of the other top-nine times heading into championships weekend.

Wisconsin senior Tim Nelson is poised to improve upon his third-place finish at last year's championships, currently owning the fastest time in the Big Ten a 28:04.46 in the 10,000 meters. Nelson's mark is third in NCAA Division I and qualifies him automatically for the NCAA Championships. Behind Nelson, Illinois' Trent Hoerr (28:55.22), Minnesota's Antonio Vega (29:04.13), Wisconsin's Christian Wagner (29:06.13) and Indiana's Kyle Jordan (29:14.01) have qualified provisionally for the NCAAs.

The Badgers boast several runners among the conference's elite in the 3,000-meter steeplechase as senior Codie See ranks first with a time of 8:52.59. Wisconsin's Brandon Bethke owns the second-best time at 8:52.59, while teammate Ryan Gasper is fifth-fastest at 9:06.18.

Relays

Wisconsin owns the conference's top time in the 4x100-meter relay, clocking in at 40:39 at the Wisconsin Twilight Invitational last weekend. The Badgers have won the event three years in a row, and a win this year would make Omole the only athlete in Big Ten history to win two events in four consecutive years.

Minnesota is one of five conference squads with a regional qualifying time in the 4x400-meter relay, leading the field with a seed time of 3:08.28. The Gophers finished second in the event at the 2006 championships behind Indiana, who clocked in at 3:08.21.

Jumps

Penn State's Ryan Fritz is poised to improve upon his eighth-place finish from last year in the high jump, currently owning the best leap in the conference at 7'02.50". Minnesota's Derek Gearman placed second at the 2006 conference championships and has the second-highest mark in the Big Ten this season at 7'00.50".

Mark Langlois of Michigan State leads the field in the pole vault with a Big Ten-best leap of 16'08.75". The senior finished second at last year's event to teammate Brad Gebauer. Behind Langlois, five athletes are tied for the second position in the conference at 16'06.75", including Indiana sophomores Blayne Burkholder and Jeffrey Coover. Coover finished third in the 2006 event while John Porter of Purdue, who is also tied in the second spot, finished fourth.

Gearman will defend his title in the long jump as he enters the championships with the best leap in the conference at 24'09.00". Wisconsin's Paul Hubbard owns the second-longest jump in the Big Ten this season a 24'04.50" and finished fifth at the 2006 championships.

Michael Whitehead of Michigan owns the conference's top spot in the triple jump at 53'04.25", aiming to improve upon his third-place finish in 2006. Indiana's Kyle Jenkins placed second at last year's event and currently owns the third-farthest leap in the Big Ten at 51'06.25", one inch shy of second-seeded Nick Brown of Illinois (51'07.25").


Throws

Iowa holds the early advantage heading into the shot put as sophomore John Hickey owns the conference's best throw at 60'01.25", and junior Shane Maier close behind with a distance of 59'05.5". A pair of Golden Gophers come in third and fourth, respectively, in Aaron Studt (58'11.25") and Adam Schnaible (58'07.25"). Seven other Big Ten athletes have qualified for NCAA Regionals in the event, including another Hawkeye, A.J. Curtis (56'02.00").

Curtis fronts the Big Ten in the discus with a conference-best toss of 202'11", which broke a 21-year-old Iowa school record on April 6.  Penn State's Steve Meyers finished second at least year's championships and currently owns the second-farthest throw in the Big Ten at 172'01". Purdue's Jon Pullum (171'10") and Indiana's Eric Werskey (169'10") have also qualified for the NCAA Regionals in the event.

Iowa's Adam Hamilton recorded the conference's best toss in the hammer throw this season at 222'02" at the Drake Relays and looks to defend his title from 2006. Ohio State's Dave Ebersole came in sixth last year, but stands to improve upon that finish, currently ranked second in the Big Ten with a throw of 197'10". In all, nine conference athletes have qualified for NCAA Regionals in the event, including three from Minnesota (Schnaible, 197'07"; Andy Bastian, 190'05"; Chris Hudspith, 185'06").

The host Nittany Lions have an early lead in the javelin competition, owning the top two spots in the Big Ten. Senior Allen Pettner boasts the conference's top throw at 228'09" while Tanner Evak is not far behind with a distance of 227'04". Pettner and Evak finished first and third, respectively, at the 2006 championships, but will face stiff competition for the title from last year's runner-up, Nathan Brown of Wisconsin, whose throw of 202'08" is sixth-best in the Big Ten this year.

Decathlon

Wisconsin will aim to defend its decathlon title as Badger senior Joe Detmer enters the event with the top score in the conference at 7296, which provisionally qualifies him for the NCAA Championships. Detmer finished second in 2006 to his teammate Brown, but will faces a challenge from Penn State's Chris Morrisey who currently owns the Big Ten's second-best score of 7014 and finished fifth last spring.