2007 Big Ten Women's Indoor Track & Field Championships Preview
Feb. 22, 2007
Postseason competition gets underway for Big Ten women's indoor track and field teams the 2007 Big Ten Women's Indoor Track and Field Championships at the University of Illinois on Feb. 24-25. The back-to-back indoor champion Michigan Wolverines will look to defend their title and claim a record ninth overall conference crown during the event.
The No. 2 Wolverines will face tough competition from No. 10 Minnesota, No. 13 Penn State who join Michigan among the nation's top 25. The Wolverines won last year's indoor championship with 126.67 points while Illinois was second with 112, Minnesota finished with 104.83 while Penn State (85) and Wisconsin (71) rounded out the top five.
It will be a familiar sight at the starting line as five sprinters return from last year's hurdles final. Leading the way is defending champion Yvonne Mensah of Illinois. With a similar time that won her a first place finish at the 2006 Big Ten Championships, Mensah leads the field in a time of 7.38.
Mensah is followed by two Buckeye teammates in Jenna Harris and Ayrizanna Favours. Harris was last year's defending champion after taking the title in 2005, yet finished a disappointing three-way tie for fourth last year. Sophomore Favours, shared the podium with her teammate, also garnering a fourth place finish after a photo finish. Harris is only one-hundredths of a second behind Mensah's season best after recording a 7.39 season best at the New Balance Collegiate Invitational on Feb. 2. 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.
Iowa's Kineke Alexander came into the 2006 Big Ten Championships with the third fastest time in the conference yet blazed to a 23.69 first place finish, leaving everyone in her dust. The junior may be trying the same tactic once again this year as she rounds out the top three spots in the conference standings this year.
Two-time runner up, Shana Cox is running out of time if the senior wants to stand tall on the podium peak. For now, the Nittany Lion holds the fastest mark in the conference with a time of 23.60. Cox is joined by two other teammates, Lauren Burns and Aleesha Barber, in the conference's top 10. Illinois' Mensah currently stands a spot off the top spot with a time of 23.67.
Cox, Mensah and Alexander all rank in the nation's top 25 and have already qualified provisionally for nationals. They are joined in the conference's top five by Indiana's Stacey Clausing who also has garnered a NCAA provisional time.
Hawkeye sprinter Kineke Alexander began last year's meet by shattering the 400-meter dash championships record by over a second as she clocked in at 52.31, 1.47 seconds faster than the previous mark. Alexander went on to win the event at the NCAA Championships to capture her first NCAA title making it hard to lay low in her 400-meter dash specialty where she leads the pack with a time of 52.01. The nation's second-fastest runner in the event, Alexander will try to defend her title from last year's championships. Cox placed behind the Hawkeye in last year's championships which will prove to be a fight to the finish this go around. Cox holds the second fastest time in conference with a time of 52.31, the country's third-fastest time. Both athletes have already earned automatic qualifications for the NCAA meet in Sacramento, Calif.
Harris also holds a spot among the nation's best with a top-5 time of 53.27. Harris, along with teammate Favours cannot be found in last year's finals, yet hold strong positions with both the third and fourth fastest times in the conference, respectfully. The Fighting Illini are packed within the 400-meter event, claiming three spots in the conference's top 10. Behind Omoye Ugiagbe and twins Camile and Carlene Robinson hope to capture as many points as possible to put Illinois in title contention with a strong showing in the event.
Last year double title winner and Iowa junior Alexander will try to go shoot for three gold's this year as she leads the 600-meter field with a time of 1:27.49. Ranking second is Golden Gopher sophomore Heather Dorniden. Dorniden is accompanied by teammates Gabriele Anderson, Jamie Cheever and Brittni Swanson in the conference top 10. The defending title holder, Katie Erdman has posted a time of 1:29.73 for the third best time in the conference. Backing Erdman are Wolverine sophomores Geena Gall and Amber Hall.
The deep roster of Michigan and Minnesota will be challenged by Illinois sophomore Carlene Robinson and Hoosier Caitlin Lauer, who rank fourth and ninth respectively.
Two more Big Ten runners have already earned provisional qualifying marks. Penn State's Simmons raced to a season-best of 2:06.53 while Illinois' Katie Engel's time of 2:09.00 ranks her seventh in the conference.
The Wolverine tandem of Edwards and Erdman lead the country in the one-mile run last year and while it is not surprising the duo is atop the conference again this year they are joined by two more Michigan runners. The junior, Edwards holds a commanding lead on the conference with a time of 4:36.08 while Erdman clocks in at 4:39.37. Gall and Erin Webster have also posted some of the best times in the conference this year to round out the top four conference finishes.
The top 10 conference runners hold provisional qualifying times, including Iowa junior Meghan Armstrong who took fourth last year and holds the fifth spot in the conference with a time of 4:44.55. In addition, two freshmen will be put to the test with Illinios' Angela Bizzarri and Penn State's Bridget Franek holding the No. 7 and No. 10 spots respectfully.
The Wolverines took the top two spots in the event last year with Erin Webster solidifying a first place finish in a time of 9:20.42. Now alone atop the conference standings, Webster has taken upon herself to keep the Wolverine tradition alive. The senior has clocked an astounding 9:13.42 mark to capture an automatic birth to the NCAA Championships. The nearest person to her is Iowa's Armstrong who holds the second-fastest conference time of 9:27.95, set at the Notre Dame Meyo Invitational. Behind Armstrong and also running a season best time at the same tournament is Hawkeye teammate Diane Nukuri, clocking in at 9:28.41 for third in conference.
Wiconsin's A'Havahla Haynes (9:29.37), Michigan's Nicole Edwards (9:31.30), Purdue's Corrie Whisner (9:31.62) and Indiana's Lindsay Hattendorf (9:32.32) will all be racing to seal their spots in the NCAA meet.
Once again, Webster holds the fastest time atop the conference with a 16:13.53 run in the 5,000-meter event. Runner-up at last year's championships, Webster is the lone Wolverine in the conference's top 10. Iowa's Nukuri holds the second-fastest time in 16:24.50 while Wisconsin is lead by freshman Hanna Grinaker who ran a 16:36.06 time at the UW Husky Classic on Feb. 10, and round out the top three spots in the conference. Rounding out the provisional qualifiers are two seniors hoping to improve on last year's runs. Illinois' Stephanie Simms and Indiana's Hattendorf hold the fourth and fifth fastest times respectfully in the Big Ten.
Michigan sophomore Tiffany Ofili leads the conference in the 60-meter hurdles. She clocked an 8.05-finish this season to claim the top spot after finishing second in the 2006 championships. Ofili's time has already punched her a ticket to the NCAA Championships. Illinois' LaNeisha Waller holds the second-fastest time in the conference with a timed 8.24 race this season and will try to defend her title in the event from a year ago. Penn State's Aleesha Barber ranks third with a time of 8.25 and right behind her is Leah Kincaid, who leads the Boilermakers with a time of 8.32. Iowa's Tiffany Johnson and Indiana's Courtney Johnson round out the top six in the conference event and have all qualified with NCAA provisional times.
In the 4 x 400-meter relay, Penn State quartet of Cox, Briene Simmons, Aleesha Barber and Dominique Blake holds the top time in the conference with a 3:34.70 finish. The time is seven seconds faster than last year's time that won the Nittany Lions the relay title. The group is considered one of the nation's top three squads in the nation, returning all of the 2006 championship team in the event.
Illinois and Ohio State are chasing the Nittany Lions and have also qualified for the NCAA Championships with B-standard times.
4,000-meter distance medley
The reigning distance medley champion Wolverines returned only one member of their 2005 championship relay squad, but with Erdman leading the way, the quartet captured a new conference record and broke a ten-year-old record set by Wisconsin in 1996. Alyson Kohlmeier, Amber Hay, Geena Gall and Erdman head into this weekend with an automatic NCAA qualifying time of 11:04.38.
A seventh place team last year, Penn State's squad has moved to sixth in the nation and has earned No. 2 spot in the conference at 11:14.78. The time is a Penn State record, set at last month's Penn State National Invitational. Rounding out the top three squads is Minnesota, clocking in at 11:14.83 in the relay.
Ohio State is led by senior Jessie Stringer, the defending high jump champion. Stringer claimed last year's title with a winning mark of 5'11.50, and matched that jump already this year. However, Stringer ranks third in the conference at this point. Above her are Illinois' Mariesa Greene who leads the field with an automatic qualifying jump of 6'0.5" and Iowa's All-American Peaches Roach who sits in the No. 2 spot in the conference with a jump of 6'.
Minnesota leads in the pole vault behind junior Andrea Smith, who captured a second place finish last year and holds the second highest mark in the conference this year at 13'1.75". Teammates Alicia Rue, Ashley Nord and Laura Massey follow with top 10 positions in the conference as well.
However, it is a Boilermaker that sits at No. 1. With a mark of 13'3.75", Mallory Peck leads the field coming into this weekend. Although just a sophomore, Peck has championship competition under her belt after finishing in a two way tie for third last year with teammate Jocelyn Lindsey.
Proving she gets better each year, two-time reigning champion Mensah leads the way with a jump of 20'5.75". Michigan's Ofili placed fourteenth last year, but holds the second-longest jump in the conference at 20'3.75". Wisconsin's Leah Kincaid holds the third-longest jump in the conference at 20'2.25" and rounds out the top three 20' jumpers of the season. All three have already qualified with NCAA provisional marks, hoping to improve on these marks this weekend.
The Fighing Illini overpowered the field in last year's finals to sweep the top three finishes. While the Illini return two of the three finishers they will be lead by defending title holder Mensah, who again leads the conference field with one of the top distances in the country. Her season best jump of 42'4.25 came at the Indiana Team Classic on Jan. 20. After earning a third-place finish at last year's championships, Illinois senior Kristina Jones has the fifth best distance in the conference (40'3.5").
Relative newcomer Renee White of Iowa is right behind Mensah with a mark of 41'5.75", while Kincaid rounds out the group with the third best distance in the conference (41'0.5"). Both White and Kincaid set their season best marks at the Iowa State Classic earlier this month on Feb. 10-11.
With the graduation of All-American and two-time Big Ten champion Jennifer Leatherman, it is guaranteed that we will see a new champion crowned this year. Up to the challenge is Purdue junior Sheena James. With a sixth-place finish last year, James leads this year's field with a throw of 51'5.75". Rounding out the NCAA provisional marks are two Golden Gophers. Last year's bronze medalist Liz Alabi and teammate Liz Podominick garner the two and three spots with throws of 50'7.25" and 50'4", respectfully.
Sunday morning kicks off with weight throw as the first event as teams will try to set an early advantage. Ohio State's Veronica Jatsek holds a pretty comfortable lead in conference coming into the weekend with a mark of 68'0.5". Jatsek claimed a fifth place finish last year as the junior leads a field dominated by upperclassman. The field looks up for grabs as last year's fourth place finisher, Alabi is right behind Jatsek with a NCAA provisional mark of 67'9.5". Three more seniors follow Alabi as Michigan State's Erica Bailey, Penn State's Helen Higgins and Iowa's Becca Franklin round out the top five marks in conference, respectfully.