May 9, 2006
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May 12-14 Michigan State University East Lansing, Mich. Ralph Young Field
All 10 conference schools, including five ranked in the Trackwire 25 Rankings, will compete at the 2006 Big Ten Championships this weekend, which is hosted by Michigan State University.
The women's portion of the annual conference event will begin with the 100-meter hurdle section of the heptathlon competition at 12:15 p.m. ET, on Fri., May 12.
Reigning Big Ten champion, No. 18 Illinois, will be vying for its second-consecutive and sixth overall outdoor team title. The Illini racked up 135 team points at last year's championships, including two individual and one relay titles. Senior Cassie Hunt, the 2005 outdoor Athlete of the Year and Championships, returns for U of I after winning both the 5,000-meters and 3,000-meter steeplechase crowns. Hunt will be joined by junior Yvonne Mensah who currently leads the league in the 100-meter and long jump events.
Penn State, who finished in second place last year and is currently tied for 20th in the national rankings, will be in close contention for the 2006 crown. The Nittany Lions boast two individual champions from last year in senior Jennifer Leatherman and sophomore Shana Cox. The two have combined to lead the Big Ten in four different categories with Cox dominating the sprints while Leatherman leads the throwing events this season. PSU will be looking for its first team title since joining the conference.
Michigan enters the championships leading all league squads in the polls at No. 15. The Wolverines finished just 2.5 points behind Penn State last year and will compete this weekend with the 2006 indoor track and field title under their belts. The last time U-M won the Big Ten Championships was in 2004 when it topped the Nittany Lions, who finished second, by 21.5 points.
Minnesota has tallied quite the resume this season and will look to win their first team crown at this year's event. 2005 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Liz Podominick, currently leads the conference in the discus throw and sits at the No. 2 spot only behind Penn State's Leatherman in the shot put. NCAA 800-meter Indoor Champion, freshman Heather Dorninden, enters this weekend leading the league in the same event and is ranked second in the 1,500 meters behind Michigan's Nicole Edwards. The Gophers are tied with Iowa and Penn State at No. 20 in the Trackwire 25 Rankings.
Iowa's Kineke Alexander is another 2006 NCAA Indoor Champion as the sophomore became the first Hawkeye to earn a national title, claiming the 400-meter crown. Iowa will also be looking for its first team championship while Alexander will look to add to the Hawkeyes' 16 individual titles.
This year's event marks the second time Michigan State has held the Women's Big Ten Championships.The Spartans first hosted in 1993 when Michigan topped runner-up Illinois with 150.5 points for the title. Wisconsin leads all league squads with eight team crowns and ranks second only to Illinois (92) with 81 individual winners.