Minnesota Takes Commanding Lead Into Final Day

May 13, 2006

After two rain-soaked days in East Lansing, Minnesota has been able to hold its lead over the rest of the teams in the women's Outdoor Track Championships.  Minnesota, who took the lead early with Laura Massey's first place finish in Friday's pole vault competition, holds on to its lead with 96.5 points heading into the final day.  Michigan sits in second with 47.66 points and Purdue is third with 36.33 points.  After eight events scored, Minnesota has won five individual titles and takes a big lead into day three.

Two days and seven events later, the heptathlon was finally decided after the 800-meter run.  Minnesota's Liz Roehrig, who finished fifth in last year's competition, took the highest points in Friday's 100-meter hurdles and never looked back, finishing with 5,472 points through the events.  Bettie Wade, a Michigan freshman, took second with 5,354 points to beat out Wisconsin's Lindsay Biel, who took third. 

The next final of the day for the women was the shot put, with Liz Podominick and Jennifer Leatherman rekindling their rivalry from 2005 when Podominick, then a freshman at Minnesota, edged Leatherman for the title.  This year was more of the same as the Gopher's throw of 16.30 meters was good enough to take the maximum 10 points for first place.  Leatherman's throw of 15.76 meters took second on the day while Sheena James of Purdue finished third with a 14.93 meter throw.  Podominick's championship extended her team's lead to nearly 24 points over the rest of the field.

The next points up for grabs were in the javelin throw and the throwers did not seem to be affected by the weather as four distances exceeded regional championship standard.  Purdue's Kara Patterson and Minnesota's Rudy Radocaj finished first and second last year, respectively, but this year reversed their roles as Radocaj continued the Gophers' domination of the field events.  With her throw of 51.73, the Minnesota sophomore took home the 10 points for her team as well as her first Big Ten Championship. 

The two other finals on the women's side on Saturday were the steeple chase and the long jump.  The steeplechase took place during the second flight of the long jump and finished before the field event was over.  Reigning Big Ten Champion and NCAA runner-up Cassie Hunt was the favorite coming into the event, and took the lead early in the race.  It was a lead she held onto in the conditions that made the water hazard seem non-existent.  Hunt took a 10-second lead coming into the final lap, but Minnesota's Emily Brown had energy left to burn.  Brown made her move on the back stretch and creeped up on the Illinois junior, passing her on the final turn and holding on for the come-from-behind lead.  Brown's time of 10:00.98 seconds shattered the previous meet record by over 12 seconds, and was enough to qualify for the upcoming NCAA Regional Championships. 

The last points up for grabs on the day were in the long jump, where Illinois' Yvonne Mensah stole the show.  With a jump of 6.21 meters, Mensah took first in the event and picked up a much-needed 10 points for her the defending champion Illini.  Michigan State's Taren James finished second in the final Big Ten meet of her career with a jump of 6.15 meters, while Roehrig, who won the heptathlon earlier in the day, took third with a 6.10 meter jump. 

The final day of competition at the Outdoor Track and Field Championships begins Sunday at 11:40 a.m. with the triple jump competition.