Feb. 24, 2006
Postseason competition gets underway for Big Ten women's indoor track and field teams the 2006 Big Ten Women's Indoor Track and Field Championships at the University of Wisconsin on Feb. 25-26. The reigning indoor champion Michigan Wolverines will look to defend their title and claim a record eighth overall conference crown during the event.
The Wolverines will face tough competition from Penn State and Minnesota who join Michigan among the nation's top 25. The Wolverines lead the conference in six categories but will face challenges from 2005 Big Ten Outdoor champion Illinois as well. The Wolverines won last year's indoor championship with 130 points while Illinois was second with 117.5. At the 2005 outdoor meet, the Illini claimed the title with a 135-112.5 point advantage over Penn State.
In the quickest track to a Big Ten individual title, the conference's fastest athletes will battle for the 60-meter crown. Ohio State has dominated the league in the event this season with three runners holding times in the top 10, including defending champion Jenna Harris. With a season-best time of 7.42, Harris is one-hundredth of a second off her time in the 2005 championships and trails Illinois' Yvonne Mensah in the league rankings by a narrow margin.
Mensah, who clocked in third in last year's championships, ranks No. 1 in the league with a 7.41-finish in the 60-meter event. An NCAA qualifier in three events, Mensah also ranks in the nation's top 30. The 2004 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Mensah leads the Illini front in their quest for a Big Ten title after finishing 12.5 points out of first in last year's team standings. Harris has been pushed all season by fellow Buckeye Ayrizanna Favours. A freshman, Favours turned in a finish of 7.44 seconds in the Scarlet and Gray Invitational this past weekend to vault her to the top of the league rankings. All three have met provisional qualifying standards with their times and will look to secure their trips to the NCAA Championships with solid runs in the league meet.
After finishing in the runner-up spot last year by four-hundredths of a second, Penn State junior Shana Cox will look to claim the 200-meter dash crown. No. 18 in the country, Cox leads the league in the event with a B-standard qualifying time of 23.71 and holds a full 0.1-second advantage on the rest of the field. Her teammate, senior Sara Shoaff finished behind Cox in third in the 2005 edition of the conference championships and currently stands a spot off of the top spot with a time of 23.82.
Rounding out the conference's top three is Iowa sophomore Kineke Alexander. Only five-hundredths of a second behind Shoaff, Alexander hold the No. 3 time, 23.87. The three sprinters rank in the nation's top 30 and have already qualified provisionally for nationals. They are joined in the conference's top five by Mensah and Harris, both of whom qualified for the 2005 championship event final and currently are in striking distance of NCAA qualifying times.
Cox also leads the pack in the 400-meter dash with a time of 52.62. The nation's third-fastest runner in the event, Cox will try to avenge her performance in last year's final. She led the race, and looked poised to send the Nittany Lions ahead in the team standings with teammate Dominique Blake, until both Penn State athletes were disqualified. After finishing in second as a freshman at the 2005 championships, Iowa's Alexander will be a contender for the title this season. Alexander ranks second in the league with a time of 52.88, the country's fourth-fastest time.
Indiana's Stacy Clausing also holds a spot among the nation's best with a top-25 time of 54.31. The fourth-place finisher last year, Clausing set a career-best time with her top finish this season. The Nittany Lions have dominated the 400-meter event, claiming four spots in the league's top 10. Behind Cox, Kamilah Salaam, Blake and Aleesha Barber hope to put Penn State in title contention with a strong performance in the event.
The 600-meter race features a youthful pack with a veteran leader. Michigan senior Katie Erdman leads the league with a time of 1:29.64. She is followed by two sophomores and four freshmen in the conference's top 10. Ranking second is her teammate, sophomore Nicole Edwards. The runner-up last year, Edwards has posted a time of 1:30.81. The Wolverine pair will be challenged Minnesota freshman Heather Dorniden and Illinois sophomore Carlene Robinson, who rank third and fourth respectively.
The Wolverines' hunt for a record eighth team title will get a boost in the 600-meter race - an event Michigan has dominated this season. Backing Erdman and Edwards are Wolverine freshmen Amber Hay and Geena Gall, who have also cracked the conference's top 10 with solid first-year performances.
The conference championships edition of the 800-meter run features several of the nation's fastest runners. Erdman enters the league meet with the task of not only solidifying her place at the top of the conference but also at the No. 1 spot in the country. Although she did not compete in last year's indoor championships, Erdman won the conference title at the outdoor meet. She leads the nation with a time of 2:04.21 and has earned automatic qualification for the NCAA meet.
Right on her heels is Minnesota's Dorniden, who holds the nation's second-fastest time at 2:04.30 - a time she set at the same meet in which Erdman clocked her fastest time, the Notre Dame Meyo Invitational. Another Big Ten athlete and Michigan competitor came up big in that same race. Michigan's Gall scored the fifth-best finish in the country, clocking in at 2:05.23. All three times surpassed the Big Ten Championship record of 2:06.02, which was set by Michigan's Rachel Sturtz in 2003, and earned the trio automatic spots at the NCAA Championships.
Two more Big Ten runners have already earned provisional qualifying marks. Michigan's Edwards raced to a season-best of 2:07.04 for the No. 13 time in the country while Brooke Woodruff's time of 2:08.92 also ranks among the nation's fastest. Defending champion Carlene Robinson raced to a title in her first conference championship with a 2:09.19. In her sophomore season, Robinson currently ranks eighth in the league with a time of 2:10.24.
Again the Wolverine tandem of Edwards and Erdman lead the country in the one-mile run, but this event is the sophomore's to lose. Edward's time of 4:41.21 leads the conference and ranks sixth in the nation while Erdman is not far behind her as No. 13 with a time of 4:44.31 - both making NCAA provisional cuts. Again the pair leads a four-strong Michigan squad in the event. Senior Rebecca Walter and junior Erin Webster have also posted some of the best times in the conference this year to earn respective No. 6 and No. 8 spots in the league.
Iowa sophomore Meghan Armstrong missed last year's finals cut by nearly two seconds, but in her second-year has pushed herself to the third in the conference. Her best time on the season is 4:45.43. The 2005 runner-up, Cassie Hunt will lead the Illini in the event. After posting a 4:44.98 finish at last year's championships, Hunt's best finish on the season came in January with a time of 4:45.66 for fourth-fastest in the conference. Nicole Bush is the only other returning finalist from 2005 championships who ranks in the league's top 10 this season. Bush, who finished eighth last season, leads the Spartans with a time of 4:50.97.
After following in the footsteps of teammate Jaime Turilli at last year's championships, Illinois' Hunt looks poised to set the pace in the 3,000-meter run that is highlighted by five athletes who are among the nation's 25 fastest in the 3,000 meter event. An All-American in the event, Hunt holds the top time in the conference and is the only Big Ten athlete who has automatically qualified for the NCAA meet in the event. She posted a third-place finish of 9:32.19 in the 2005 indoor championships but has cut 15 seconds off of that time, clocking a season-best 9:15.16 that puts her at seventh in the country.
The Wolverines' stars have figured out the buddy system and feature another top team in Webster and Walter. Webster's time of 9:19.37 ranks second in the conference followed by Walter's 9:27.93 in fourth. Bush posted a time of 9:25.44 to earn the third-fastest time in the conference followed by three juniors who round out the conference's seven NCAA qualifiers. Minnesota's Emily Brown (9:28.18), Illinois Stephanie Simms (9:29.95) and Wisconsin's Katrina Rundhaug (9:30.08) will all be racing to seal their spots in the NCAA meet.
The Big Ten athletes raised the NCAA qualifying count to the next level in the 5,000-meter run with eight runners already provisionally qualified for the national meet, including the top two who hold guaranteed spots. It's déjà vu in the next long distance race when Webster and Walter pack the one-two punch for the Wolverines. Webster owns the No. 1 time of 16:06.58 followed by Walter's time of 16:08.91. Holding the third-best time in the conference is Alyson Kohlmeier, another Michigan long-distance standout who will give the Wolverines plenty of depth. Her top time on the season is 16:13.65.
A mere four-hundredths of a second is the hosting Badgers' Rundhaug at fourth with a time of 16:13.65. Her teammate Maggie Grabow holds fifth place with a 16:17.41-finish this season. Grabow, who transferred from Washington University, is a four-time NCAA Division III All-American. Rounding out the provisional qualifiers are Simms, Penn State's Molly Landreth and Michigan's Heather Sirko. Two of last year's finalists, Michigan's Ana Gjesdal and Indiana's Lindsay Hattendorf, also rank among the league's fastest competitors in this event. They will look to improve on respective seventh- and eighth-place finishes in last year's championships while racing for NCAA qualification.
Iowa junior Tiffany Johnson leads the conference in the 60-meter hurdles. She clocked an 8.50-finish this season to claim the top spot after finishing fifth in the 2005 championships. Two freshmen have tied with the second-fastest time in the league. Penn State's Aleesha Barber and Michigan's Tiffany Ofili have both timed 8.36-races this season and will challenge for the event title in their first Big Ten Championship experiences. Purdue's Leah Kincaid ranks fourth with a time of 8.42 and right behind her is Courtney Johnson, who leads the Hoosiers with a time of 8.43. Johnson also garnered third-place honors at the 2005 Championships with a time of 8.44.
In the 4 x 400-meter relay, Illinois quartet of Omoye Ugiagbe, Camile Robinson, Mensah and Carlene Robinson holds the top time in the conference with a 3:37.50 finish. The time ranks 14th in the country and earned the squad provisional qualification to the NCAA meet. That group returns all but one leg of the 2005 championship team in the event with Omoye Ugiagbe taking over for Shanna Pickett. Their current season-best eclipses the league championships record of 3:40.44 set by Indiana in 2002.
Ohio State has also qualified for the NCAA Championships with a B-standard time of 3:39.95. They are followed by Penn State's time of 3:40.25 for third-best in the league. Penn State also returns Cox and Blake from its runner-up squad in last year's championship final.
4,000-meter distance medley
The reigning distance medley champion Wolverines return only one member of their 2005 championship relay squad, but with Erdman leading the way, the quartet is back among the best in the country. Ranked third in the nation, the group of Erdman, Shavonee Maclin, Gall and Edwards holds the top time in the conference (11:06.10) and have automatically qualified for nationals.
A third place team last year, Minnesota's squad has moved to sixth in the nation and earned provisional NCAA qualification with the second-fastest time in the conference (11:10.40). Rounding out the top three squads is the host quartet from Wisconsin. The group of A'Havahla Haynes, Erica Schoeller, Ann Detmer and Alicia Pabich clocked a season-best 11:36.48 in the relay.
Iowa is led by All-American Peaches Roach, the defending high jump champion. Roach claimed last year's title with a winning mark of 5'10.75, and has claimed a season-best 6'0 jump this year. Michigan seniors Stephanie Linz and Jennifer Williams share the No. 2 spot in the conference with a provisional qualifying jump of 5'11.25. Linz finished second at the 2005 Big Ten Indoor Championships while Williams placed fourth.
With the third highest mark in the conference 5'10.75, Ohio State's Jessie Stringer edged Minnesota's Liz Roehrig by 3/4ths of an inch. Roehrig, who was honored as the 2005 Big Ten Indoor Freshman of the Year, notched a 5'10 jump this season.
The host school leads in the pole vault behind junior Blair Luethmers, who has the highest mark in the conference at 13'0.25, and freshman Jenny Soceka. Despite redshirting the 2005 season, Luethmers holds the Wisconsin indoor record in the pole vault. Soceka holds the fifth-highest vault in the conference at 12'6.25. Purdue's Brianna Nueman and Jocelyn Lindsey are tied for the second highest mark in the conference at 12'8.25 while Minnesota's Ashley Nord tallied a fourth-best mark of 12'7.5.
Reigning champion Mensah leads the way with jump of 20'4. Purdue's Kincaid missed last year's final in the conference championship by nine-hundredths of a meter. Already an NCAA provisional qualifier, Kincaid holds the second-longest jump in the league at 20'3.25. She is followed by Penn State's Hunger Gayle, who notched a 20'0.75 for her best jump of the season. Hunter earned a silver medal in the long jump at the 2005 Pan Am Junior Championships. Roehrig follows with a fourth-best jump of 19'10.75 while last year's third-place finisher, Indiana's Lorian Price, has the fifth-best distance in the conference (19'10).
Mensah again leads the conference field with one of the top distances in the country. Her best jump of 43'4 ranks seventh in the nation. After earning a fourth-place finish at last year's championships, Illinois senior Nina Henson has the second best distance in the conference (42'0.25) to provisionally qualify for her second trip to the NCAA Championships in the event. Kincaid rounds out the league's group of provisional qualifiers with the third best distance in the conference (41'6). Illinois Kristina Jones put up an 11th-place jump in last year's indoor championships before improving to second in the triple jump competition at the outdoor conference meet. She currently holds the fourth-best distance in the league at 40'11.25.
It is difficult enough for most freshmen to make an immediate impact in the league without facing a senior All-American and defending Big Ten champion, but Ohio State freshman Janine Zylinski is showing no signs of intimidation. She has the best throw in the conference (53'7.5) edging reigning champion Jennifer Leatherman of Penn State. An All-American and conference title holder in shot put, weight throw and hammer, Leatherman has the second-best distance (53'4.75). Both have qualified provisionally for the NCAA Championships in the event. Minnesota's Liz Alabi redshirted the 2005 season, but she returns to the conference championships with the third best distance in the league of 50'0.75.
Leatherman also looks to defend her crown in the weight throw competition. With throws ranked fourth and seventh in the nation, Leatherman holds the best performance in the conference with a toss of 72', an A-standard NCAA qualifying mark. Ohio State's Keturah Lofton follows in second with a throw of 67'2.25. The 2004 Big Ten indoor champion and All-American in the weight throw, Lofton redshirted last season. Purdue's Astin Steward has also qualified provisionally for nationals with the third best distance in the conference of 62'9.5. Steward is followed by Alabi's season-best distance of 60'11.
Minnesota's Roehrig exploded onto the Big Ten stage with a title-winning performance in the indoor pentathlon. The feat earned her 2005 Freshman of the Year honors, but to defend her crown, Roehrig will have to face another solid newcomer in Michigan freshman Bettie Wade.
The No. 5 pentathlon athlete in the country, Wade holds the best performance in the conference after earning a league-high 4,047 points at the Red Simmons Invitational in January. Roehrig season-best of 3,999 ranks second, just ahead of Michigan's Jennifer Williams, who holds the third highest point total with 3,888. Williams also earned a fourth-place finish in the pentathlon at the 2005 Big Ten Indoor Championships with 3,742 points. Completing the list of league competitors with provisional qualifying marks to their credit is Penn State's Amber Strouse and Michigan State's Etienne Chaplin. Strouse ranks fourth in the league with a 3,729-point performance, and Chaplin is in fifth with 3,711.