May 28, 2008
Complete Release in PDF Format
The 2008 NCAA Regionals are set to begin on Friday, May 30, at four campus sites across the country. Penn State will compete in the East Regional, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin will travel to the Mideast Regional, and Iowa and Minnesota will compete at the Midwest Regional.
Penn State is the Big Ten's lone representative in the East Region in Tallahassee Fla., hosted by Florida State University. The Nittany Lion women captured the 2008 Big Ten Championships title for the first time in school history . The PSU women placed a conference-best six student-athletes on the All-Big Ten first team (Aleesha Barber, Dominique Blake, Shana Cox, Bridget Franek, Gayle Hunter, Briene Simmons). Big Ten Track Athlete of the Year and Championships Cox pilots the Penn State women's team, entering the event ranked second in the 400 meters and third in the 200 meters. Her anchor work on the 4x400-meter relay helped post an East Regional-best time of 3:31.44. On the men's side triple jumpers Clarence Smith, Ryan Taylor and Jay Pagana all rank in the regional's top 10 as they assisted the Nittany Lions to a sixth-place showing at this year's Big Ten Championships.
Seven Big Ten teams will compete in the Mideast Regional in Fayetteville, Ark., hosted by the University of Arkansas. The women's contingent offers a multitude of talent capable of advancing many student-athletes to the NCAA Championships. Purdue's Kara Patterson enters the event ranked first in the javelin after throwing the second-best spear in U.S. history at this year's Big Ten meet. Teammate Leah Kincaid has recorded a long jump mark of 6.45 m., placing her second on the regional performance list. Big Ten Freshman of the Year Emily Pendleton of Michigan looks to continue her success in the discus as she ranks third with a distance of 53.65 m. Illinois' Aja Evans ranks third in the shot put setting a new Big Ten Championships record with a heave of 17.03 m. On the track, Big Ten distance competitors highlight the three races as nine women rank in the top six of those events (1,500, 3,000-meter steeple and 5,000). 2008 NCAA indoor hurdle champion Tiffany Ofili will battle with LSU's Nickiesha Wilson for the regional hurdle title as the two sprinters are within two-one hundrenths of a second from each other.
On the men's side, the 1,500-meter race wil be highly contested as the Big Ten houses the top four student-athletes in Ohio State's Jeff See and Wisconsin's Jack Bolas, Evan Jager and Craig Miller. In the pole vault competition, the Big Ten looks to go one-two with Indiana's Jeff Coover and Purdue's Eric Sparks. In the triple jump, Indiana's Kyle Jenkins owns the best leap of 16.27 m. and teammate Kiwan Lawson garners the regional's fourth-best long jump mark of 7.87 m. Badger teammates Ryan Gasper and Brandon Bethke look for a strong showing in the 3,000-meter steeplechase as the duo rank fourth and sixth, respectively. In the sprints, Big Ten Athlete of the Year Adam Harris of Michigan (200), Ohio State's Tony Cole (100) and Wisconsin's James Groce (400) look to advance to the NCAA meet as the trio rank within the top 10 in their respective event. Big Ten Freshman and Field Athlete of the Year Billy Hardcastle of Purdue stands as arguably the Big Ten's best thrower, ranking fifth in the shot put and sixth in the discus.
Iowa and Minnesota will represent the Big Ten at the Midwest Regional, hosted by the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Neb. Minnesota will field a talented group of individuals including top-ranked Liz Roehrig (high jump) and Ruby Radocaj (javelin). Roehrig has already automatically qualified for the NCAA meet in the heptathalon. Gopher student-athletes Heather Dorniden and Julie Schwengler will look to go one-two in the 800-meter run as they own two of the top four times. Iowa will rely on distance specialists Diane Nukuri and Meghan Armstrong as they hold down the fourth and fifth spot in the 5,000 meters.
On the men's side, four of the top six shot putters come from the Big Ten as Minnesota's Aaron Studt ranks No. 1. Following Studt is the Iowa trio of John Hickey (2nd), A.J. Curtis (5th) and Shane Maier (6th). Gopher cross country standouts Hassan Mead and Chris Rombough look to make some noise in the 5,000 meters, as they sit in the sixth and eighth spots, respectively.
Student-athletes qualified for regional competition by reaching standards established for each event or by earning automatic access as the conference event champion. The 10,000-meter run, decathlon and heptathlon are the only events in which qualifying is based on competition outside the regional championships.
The regional format is set up so the top five individuals and top three relay teams form each of the four sites will automatically qualify for the 2008 NCAA Championships, set to take place June 11-14 at the Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa. Drake University will host this year's NCAA Championships.