Big Ten Women's Indoor Track and Field Championships Preview
Feb. 20, 2007
February 24-25 University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Ill. Armory Track
Big Ten women's track and field opens its postseason this weekend at the 2007 Big Ten Indoor Track and Field Championships at Armory Track on the University of Illinois campus. The field includes four teams ranked in the Trackwire Top 25, including No. 1 Michigan. Minnesota (No. 9), Penn State (T-13) and host Illinois (T-16) also represent the conference in the national rankings.
Illinois has finished second in the last two championships and looks to make the jump to the top behind the strong veteran leadership of athletes like Yvonne Mensah and LaNeisha Waller. Mensah was a three-time winner at the 2006 indoors, taking home gold in the 60-meter dash, long jump and triple jump while Waller took first in the 60-meter hurdles.
Hoping to improve upon last year's 10th-place finish, Indiana is led by seniors Stacey Clausing and Lorain Price. Clausing has qualified provisionally for the NCAAs in the 200- and 400-meter dashes while Price was named the Big Ten's Track Athlete of the Week on Jan. 9.
Junior Kineke Alexander leads Iowa into the championships with an NCAA title under her belt having won the 400 meters at the 2006 national event. Alexander was a double winner at last year's Big Ten Championships with first-place finishes in the 200 and 400 meters, setting the meet record in the 400-yard event (52.31).
Michigan looks to become just the second team in conference history to win three consecutive championships having taken home the team titles in 2005 and `06. For the first time in program history, the Wolverines are ranked No. 1 in the Trackwire Top 25 while junior Nicole Edwards is ranked No. 2 in the mile and sophomore Tiffany Ofili is second in the 60-meter hurdles.
Michigan State looks to move up from its 11th-place finish in 2006 with the help of senior Erica Bailey, who placed seventh in the shot put at the 2006 championships, and junior Jackie Walton, who finished eighth in the 60-meter hurdles.
Minnesota is still looking for its first conference crown and rests its 2007 hopes upon Liz Roehrig and Heather Dorniden, back-to-back Freshman of the Year honorees in 2005 and `06, respectively. Each has been named Track Athlete of the Week once this season while senior Liz Alabi has received Field Athlete of the Week honors twice.
2006 All-American Jessica Stringer leads Ohio State into Armory Track as a returning champion having won the high jump at least year's event. The 2006 All-Big Ten honoree will be joined by Veronica Jatsek (weight throw), Jenna Harris (400 meters) and Ayrizonna Favours (400 meters), who have each qualified provisionally for the NCAAs.
Despite losing 2006 Athlete of the Year Jennifer Leatherman to graduation, Penn State remains a major contender in the title run. Junior Shana Cox has already qualified automatically for the NCAAs in the 400 meters, and she and teammate Lena Bettis have received weekly honors from the conference this season.
Purdue brings a balanced attack into the championships, boasting three NCAA provisional track times and two provisional field scores. Corrie Whisner has qualified provisionally in the mile and 3,000 meters while Mallory Peck owns a provisional jump in the pole vault, for which she received Field Athlete of the Week honors on Jan. 30.
Wisconsin athletes have captured four NCAA provisional marks including Melissa Talbot, whose score of 4,048 in the pentathlon came two points away from an automatic qualification. Talbot was named Big Ten Field Athlete of the Week on Jan. 30 for her efforts. The Badgers own seven team tiles, trailing Michigan by one for a share of the conference record.