2008 Big Ten Championships Preview
Feb. 29, 2008
The University of Minnesota will be the site of the 2008 Big Ten Women's Indoor Track and Field Championships. This year's event has the opportunity to see many records fall as five Big Ten student-athletes lead the nation in their respective event. Favorites to win the team title and ranked among the nation's top 25 are No. 5 Michigan, No. 7 Minnesota, No. 8 Penn State and No. 21 Iowa.
After losing one of the top athletes in the conference last year in Yvonne Mensah, Illinois will lean on veteran sprinters Tiara Armstrong and LeNeisha Waller. Armstrong placed third in the 60-meter dash last year behind two seniors. Waller finished fifth in the same event and placed second in the 60-meter hurdles.
After an eighth-place finish in 2007, Indiana looks to climb in the standings. Last season's Freshman of the Year Vera Neuenswander appears to have the best shot at an individual title competing in the pole vault. The sophomore tied a Big Ten Championships record at last year's event, clearing 13-05.75. On the track, juniors Caitlin Lauer (800-meters) and Wendi Robinson (5,000-meters) have the ability to garner a high podium spot.
2007's Big Ten Track Athlete of the Year and Championships Kineke Alexander leads Iowa into Minneapolis having won last year's 200-and 400-meter dashes. She bested her own Championships record in the 400-meters clocking a 52.23. Coming off a record breaking cross country season, senior Diane Nukuri hopes to continue her success in this year's distance events as she was runner-up in the 3,000-and 5,000-meter races last year.
Michigan will be looking to claim the top spot after finishing second last year. Leading the Wolverine charge will be senior Nicole Edwards and juniors Geena Gail and Tiffany Ofili. Edwards owns the nation's best mile time by over three seconds with a 4:33.23 and she is the defending champion in this event. Ofili scored a wide variety of points last season as she won the 60-meter hurdles, placed second in the long jump and crossed the finish line fifth in the 60-meter dash. Her hurdle time of 8.04 is tied for tops in the country this year. Gail has run the nation's best 800-meter time of 2:03.37 which puts the current championships record in jeopardy.
Michigan State looks to move up from its 10th-place finish in 2007 with guidance from a trio of seniors in Nicole Bush, Meagan Halliwill and Jacqueline Walton. Earlier this season, Bush recorded the nation's fifth-best time in the 3,000-meter run timing in at 9:12.55.
2007 Coach of the Year Matt Bingle returns an all-star lineup packed with depth as Minnesota vies for a repeat of the team title. On the track, look for major contributions from Gabriele Anderson, Jamie Cheever and Heather Dorniden. In the field, a bounty of points are available for Ashley Nord, Liz Podominick, Liz Roehrig, Caitlin Roemhildt, Alicia Rue and Andrea Smith. Gopher student-athletes have earned five Big Ten weekly awards this season, more than any other team.
Ohio State looks to better a seventh-place finish from a year ago, as senior Veronica Jatsek leads the way. The Big Ten's leading weight thrower has garnered conference Athlete of the Week honors three times this season. The Buckeyes look to earn points from junior sprinter Ayrizanna Favours, who crossed the line third at last year's event in the 200-and 400-meters.
Upperclassmen lead the Boilermakers as they look to improve on their ninth-place finish from a year ago. Junior Mallory Peck returns as defending pole vault champion and owns a share of the championships record (13-05.75). Senior Leah Kincaid proved herself a worthy competitor, racking up third-and seventh-place points in the long jump and 60-meter hurdles in last year's event. Throwing veteran Astin Steward will challenge OSU's Jatsek for the weight throw title as Steward holds the country's sixth-best toss (20.83m).
Distance points will carry the 2007 sixth-place Wisconsin team. Senior Katrina Rundhaug has the third-best 5,000-meter time in the country this year (16:00.96) and teammate Ann Detmer's mile time (4:41.68) ranks 11th. Plan on Kayla Schultz (shot put) and Megan Seidl (high jump) to bring home big points in their respective field events.