Gophers Tighten Grip on Lead in Day 2 of Big Ten Championships

May 12, 2007

  • CSTV Interview - Bettie Ward, Michigan

    UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Defending champion Minnesota entered the second day of competition with the lead at the 2007 Big Ten Women's Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Penn State, and the Gophers did not relent a bit. They will look for their second-ever outdoor conference title when a team and 10 more individual champions will be crowned on Sunday at the Nittany Lion Outdoor Track.

    The Gophers top the team standings with 62 points, followed by Purdue's 43 in second. Michigan holds a one-point advantage over Penn State for third place with 37, while Indiana if fifth (31) and Michigan State sits in sixth (24). Illinois holds a marginal lead over Iowa for seventh, and Wisconsin (21) and Ohio State (13) complete the team standings.

    The heptathlon kicked off day two of championships competition. After four events were completed Friday, Michigan's Bettie Wade held a narrow lead over Wisconsin's Melissa Talbot in the heptathlon competition. But with three more events in Day 2, the lead was up for grabs. The women kicked off the morning with the long jump, and Wade quickly strengthened her hold on the top spot, taking first in the event with a jump of 19'09.5". Penn State's Gayle Hunter finished second at 19'06.25", just ahead of Talbot's 19' jump for third.

    In the heptathlon javelin throw, Iowa's Tammilee Kerr staked her claim on 819 points with first place. Despite finishing only seventh, Wade leader position didn't waver as her closest competition - Talbot and Hunter - finished sixth and fourth, respectively.

    Hunter blazed through the 800m run, the final heptathlon even, at 2:19.06, but it wasn't quite enough to move her up in the overall standings. Wade, who crossed the line fifth in the race, secured the first medal of the day, taking the overall win with 5722 points. Talbot earned silver honors with 5637 points while Hunter notched a third-place tally of 5559.

    With Wade's performance, Michigan leaped into second place in the team standings, a mere two points behind first-place Minnesota's 27.

    Minnesota looked poised to dominate the shot put competition with two-time defending champion Liz Podominick and then-event-leader Liz Alabi advancing to the finals, but Purdue's Sheena James was not about to let the Gophers the top spot. After collecting bronze honors last year, the Boilermaker junior went into her last throw needing to gain 0.13 meters on Alabi. Instead, she raised the stakes with a giant throw of 52'05.25" to take over the lead and secure gold in the event for the Boilermakers. Her teammate Stacey Wannemacher added to the Purdue point total with a fifth-place performance of 48'07.25"

    Alabi's toss of 51"01.75" garnered silver-medal honors while Podominick nailed a 49'11.75" attempt for bronze. Michigan State senior Erica Bailey came in fourth with a 49'10.50"-performance, followed by sixth-place Kayla Schultz of Wisconsin at 47'07". Ohio State's Veronica Jatsek (46'04.75") and Penn State's Toya Woods (46'01.50") cleaned up the rest of the points in seventh and eighth respectively.

    The event stretched the Gophers' lead to 16 points vaulted Purdue into a tie tied for second with Michigan.

    Lindsey Blaine's come-from-behind win in the javelin final pushed Purdue into lone possession of second place 170' throw on her final attempt to secure the gold. Penn State's Heidi Nadeau nabbed silver medal honors with a 167'02" throw, followed by Minnesota's Ruby Radocaj in third (166'11"). Her teammate Amanda Solberg added to the Gopher lead with a 140'08" throw for seventh.

    Illinois' Mariesa Greene got on the board early after an opening throw of 153'07" for fourth, and Michigan State's Melina Buckmaster finished fifth at 149'02". Wisconsin's Amy Lewis (143'08") and Iowa's Tammilee Kerr (139'05") rounded out the crop of finalists.

    Indiana senior Lorian Price's 21'02.5" long jump secured the third gold of the championships for the Hoosiers. Purdue's Leah Kincaid secured silver-medal honors with a 20'08.5" jump and 2006 champion Mensah of Illinois nabbed bronze with a 20'04.5" leap. Minnesota's Christin Kingsley followed an equal best-result but finished fourth after the tie-breaker. Penn State's Lena Bettis (20'03") and Gayle Hunter (20'02.5") finished fifth and sixth respectively, giving the Nittany Lions a huge boost in the team standings.

    Wisconsin's Venus Washington tallied the next longest jump at 20'0.5", and Ohio state's Veronica Vance closed out the troupe of finalists with a 19'08.75" performance.

    The final individual champion of the day was crowned in the 3,000m steeplechase in record fashion. Michigan's Anna Willard blazed past the field to cross the line first at 9:57.90, erasing the previous conference championships record set last year by Minnesota's Brown by more than three seconds. The performance also marked the best time in the conference this season. Michigan State's Nicole Bush claimed the silver with a time of 10:03.89, and Penn State rookie Bridget Franek nabbed bronze with a time of 10:05.96.

    Brown fell short of claiming her second straight title, but secured fourth-place points for Minnesota with a time of 10:06.95. Her teammate Jamie Cheever added more with a sixth-place finish at 10:27.94. The Nittany Lions added another to the podium with Claire Percival's fifth-place finish in 10:27.83. Michigan's Arianne Field (10:30.02) and Michigan State's Sarah Price (10:33.23) rounded out the scoring performances.

    The second day of competition also saw preliminary races for six individual track events and two relay races.

    In the trial run of the 4x100m relay, Indiana's third-seeded team of Lorian Price, Stacey Clausing, Kyndal Carr and Zakiya Robinson crossed the line first at 45.22 seconds. Illinois finished a mere 0.07 seconds later for second, while the defending champion Nittany Lions came in third at 45.60. Michigan State's quartet also clocked a national qualifying time just behind Penn State at 45.62 seconds.

    Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan and Purdue all qualified for Sunday's final, but Iowa could not finish due to injury.

    Minnesota led the way in the 1500m preliminary run - an event that will see seven different schools represented in the finals - behind Emily Brown's first-place finish of 4:21.72. The Gopher senior edged Wisconsin's Ann Detmer (4:21.73) and defending event champ Nicole Edwards of Michigan (4:21.74) at the line. Iowa's Meghan Armstrong and Illinois' Angela Bizzarri battled it out for fourth, with the Hawkeye junior taking the spot at 4:21.85. Bizzarri secured her finals in next at 4:21.87.

    Heather Dorniden added another Gopher to the finals slate with a sixth-place time of 4:22.71, while Michigan tallied three more after Edwards. Anna Willard, Katie Erdman and Geena Gall will all line up for the Maize and Blue in Sunday's final. Purdue earned two spots with seniors Corrie Whisner and Laura Farley advancing while Michigan State's Lisa Senakiewich rounds out the lineup.

    In the trial 400m dash, Iowa's Kineke Alexander - last year's NCAA runner-up in the event - cruised to a first-place finish with a time of 52.23 seconds. Defending event champion Shana Cox of Penn State clocked in second at 53.05, followed by teammate Dominique Blake at 54.33. Stacey Clausing secured a finals spot for Indiana, while Omoye Ugiagbe and Carlene and Camile Robinson, claimed the next three seeds for Illinois. Rounding out the finals slate are Ohio State's Chandra Krempel and Michigan's Shana Vinson.

    The Illini laid their claim on three more finals berths in the 100m dash with senior Yvonne Mensah leading the way with a time of 11.92 seconds. Her teammates Tiara Armstrong (12.03) and LaNeisha Waller (12.16) nabbed fourth and sixth place respectively. Michigan's Tiffany Ofili will come out of the blocks in the second seed tomorrow after a blistering 11.95-second finish. Minnesota's Kadian Douglas followed in third at 11.99, while Iowa's Peaches Roach clocked in fifth at 12.04. Also advancing to Sunday's finale are Michigan State's Charelise Davis and Paris Mandy and Indiana's Zakiya Robinson.

    Ofili wasted no time starting the defense of her 2006 title in the 100m hurdles. The Wolverine claimed the top spot in the next prelim, crossing the line at 13.34 seconds. Penn State's Aleesha Barber made her opening run count on her home track with a 13.63-second run for second. Iowa's Tiffany Johnson, who served as Ofili's runner-up last year, clocked in next at 13.85, closely followed by Indiana's Lorian Price              (13.90). Two Illini and two Boilermakers round out the final with Waller and Nikkita Holder representing the Blue and Orange and Leah Kincaid and Ranay Harvey advancing for the Black and Gold.

    Minnesota dominated the 800m run preliminary, claiming four spots in Sunday's final behind Dorniden's first-place finish of 2:06.29. Dorniden, who finished second in last year's event, led a Gopher group that includes Julie Schwengler (2:07.16), Gabriele Anderson (2:08.44) and Ayla Mitchell (2:10.28). Defending champion Geena Gall of Michigan clocked in second at 2:06.55, while her teammate Katie Erdman finished at 2:08.63. Joining Dorniden, Mitchell and Gall in a return to the event finals for the second straight year are Penn State's Briene Simmons (2:07.11) and Wisconsin's Erica Schoeller (2:09.51). Iowa rookie Sophia Ponce rounds out the finals group after a 2:10.35 preliminary performance.

    Illinois' Armstrong secured the top spot in the 200m dash finale with a time of 23.98 seconds. Her teammate Mensah crossed the finish line fourth at 24.15 seconds. Reigning title-holder Cox secured her spot with a second-place finish of 23.98 seconds. Her fellow Nittany Lion Blake squeezed into the last finals spot with a 24.65 second finish. Indiana's Clausing was third (24.08) followed by Wisconsin's Talbot in fifth (24.17), Ohio State's Ayrizanna Favours in sixth (24.39), and Minnesota's Douglas in seventh (24.31). Michigan State's Davis earned the eighth spot, crossing the line after 24.47 seconds.

    The Illini again led the way in the 400m hurdles, sending four athletes to Sunday's event final. Twin Camile and Carlene Robinson led the way in first and second places, respectively, while Briana Cunningham and Alondra Cooper also notched top-nine finishes. Penn State will be represented by two, as Barber (59.46) and Kim Markel (59.43) clocked in third and fourth. Michigan's Katie LaValley finished sixth (59.62), while Minnesota's Ekene Obi and Purdue's Ranay Harvey closed out the finalists spots in eighth and ninth respectively.

    The final day of competition gets underway Sunday morning at 11:40 ET with the women's triple jump trials and finals. Check back to for updates and results.