Illinois, Michigan Share Big Ten Women's Outdoor Track & Field Championships Title

Illinois' Mensah claimed four gold medals on the final day of the championships.

Illinois' Mensah claimed four gold medals on the final day of the championships.
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May 13, 2007

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The team championship race came down to the final event of the 2007 Big Ten Women's Outdoor Track & Field Championships at Penn State's Nittany Lion Outdoor Track, and when all was said and done, the meet ended in a tie for the first time in conference history. Senior Yvonne Mensah led the Illini to their second title in three years, while Michigan's Anna Willard propelled the Maize and Blue into a share of the championships crown.

The Illini carried a six point lead into the final event, but the Wolverines were able to match the Blue and Orange effort of 129 total team points for their seventh title overall. The championship marks the sixth overall for Illinois. The previous conference outdoor championships' record for slimmest winning margin was one point, which had been tallied twice: first in 1983 and then the last time the Nittany Lions hosted the event in 1996.

Defending champion Minnesota entered the final day of competition with a 19-point lead over Purdue but the final day kicked off on the field with the triple jump, where Illinois' Mensah needed only two attempts to claim the title. The senior notched a 42'0.625" leap on her second jump before passing on the remaining rounds in order to take the fourth leg of the Illini's 4x100 relay. Iowa sent two to the podium with Renee White securing silver on a 42'01.5" jump and Tiffany Johnson earning bronze after a 41'08.75" performance.

Michigan State's Taren James finished fourth on the heels of her 41'05" jump, followed by Ohio State's Veronica Vance (41'03.75") and Illinois' Kristina Jones (41'03.25"). Penn State's Gale Hunter (41'02.5") and Purdue's Leah Kincaid (40'06.25") rounded out the scoring finalists.

Purdue continued its dominations of the women's throwing events with Astin Steward's win in the discus throw. Her toss of 176'10" sealed the third gold for the Boilermakers after Sheena James claimed the shot put and Lindsey Blaine nabbed the javelin gold on Saturday. Fellow Boilermaker Stacey Wannemacher also scored in the event with an eighth place finish of 141'11".

Penn State's Christen Clemson had a solid showing on her home field with a 160'07" throw good for second place. Wisconsin's Kayla Schultz scored bronze medal honors with a toss of 155'07". Her teammates Samantha Dehn (147') and Trina Dusso (146'07") also put up points for Badgers in sixth and seventh place.

Michigan's Bridgette Maynard finished fourth with a finals throw of 155'07" while Penn State's Emma Schmelzer used her final toss of 147' to secure fifth place.

Illinois scored the first medal of the day on the track with a winning run in the 4x100m relay. The quartet of Tiara Armstrong, LaNeisha Waller, Carlene Robinson and Mensah clocked a time of 45.02 seconds for gold, followed by Indiana's squad in at 45.54 seconds. The defending champion Penn State secured bronze medal honors with a time of 45.74, beating out Michigan State's group by 0.03 seconds.

The Wolverines looked poised to make up a hefty amount of points on the 1500m with four athletes advancing to the final race. Willard broke out into a huge lead early with a couple Michigan teammates trailing her. At the start of the last lap, Wisconsin's Ann Detmer moved into second, but she couldn't close the gap on Willard. Defending event champion Katie Erdman of Michigan sprinted past Detmer and pulled neck-in-neck with her teammate. Willard managed to put her head across the line first, edging out the win by 0.02 seconds. Her time of 4:15.93 secured Willard's second gold of the championships after winning the 3,000m steeple chase on Saturday. It also marked the fourth consecutive year the even was won by a Wolverine. Erdman clocked in second at 4:15.95.

Minnesota's Heather Dorniden (4:17.68) and Emily Brown (4:18.62) used last-lap surges to overcome Detmer, finishing third and fourth, respectively. The Wisconsin junior crossed the line a mere 0.02 seconds after Brown for fifth. Geena Gall rounded out the Wolverine contingent with sixth place (4:19.45) while Iowa's Meghan Armstrong (4:20.92) and Purdue's Corrie Whisner (4:22.35) followed in seventh and eighth.

The effort pulled the Wolverines into second place, 16 points back from leader Minnesota.

Michigan's Tiffany Ofili cut the Gopher lead considerably in the next event, winning the 100m hurdles in 13.14 seconds. Illinois' LaNeisha Waller clocked in next at 13.41 seconds, closely followed by Penn State's Aleesha Barber in third at 13.45 seconds.
 
Illinois scored again behind Nikkita Holder's fourth-place effort of 13.59 seconds. Indiana's Courtney Johnson (13.65) and Lorian Price (13.89) placed fifth and sixth, respectively. Iowa's Tiffany Johnson notched a sixth-place time of 13.74 seconds in her final Big Ten Championships, while Purdue's Ranay Harvey rounded out the scoring finalists.

Iowa's Kineke Alexander ended Penn State's Shana Cox's string of 400m dash titles with a blistering close on the finish line at 52.15 seconds. Cox followed at 52.64 for silver. Her teammate Dominique Blake also scored a spot on the podium with a third-place finish of 53.81 seconds.

The Illini twins Carlene and Camile Robinson clocked in at 54.14 seconds and 54.39, respectively, while their teammate Omoye Ugiagbe also scored in seventh with a finish of 55.10 seconds.

Mensah's medal tally kept growing in the 100m dash, where she flew past the field and teammate Tiara Armstrong for the gold at 11.53 seconds. Armstrong secured the silver medal after finishing at 11.64 seconds. Waller added to the Illini total with an eighth place finish at 12.03 seconds, and the team vaulted into first place - night points ahead of Michigan.

Michigan's Ofili made another trip to the podium for the day after winning the 100m hurdles, taking bronze home in this event with an 11.71-second showing. Iowa's Roach clocked in fourth (11.77) followed by Minnesota's Kadian Douglas (11.80) and Michigan State's Charelise Davis (11.99). 

Michigan momentarily claimed the lead behind Erdman's gold-medal race in the 800m run. The Wolverine senior, who won the even in 2005, edged Minnesota's Dorniden to claim the win with a time of 2:05.17. It marked the ninth-consecutive title in the event by a Wolverine. Her teammate Geena Gall, the 2006 champion, claimed third place at 2:06.89.

Dorniden secured silver with a finish at 2:05.81. She was joined by three more Gophers in the event final. Gabriele Anderson, Julie Schwengler and Ayla Mitchell all scored for the Maroon and Gold from sixth-through-eighth place. Penn State's Briene Simmons clocked in fourth at 2:08.02, followed by Wisconsin's Erica Schoeller in fifth (2:08.04).

Penn State's first-and-third combination of Aleesha Barber and Kim Markel in the 400m hurdles vaulted the Nittany Lions up in the team standings. Barber secured the gold with a winning time of 57.56 seconds, while Markel broke up the Illini Robinson twins with a bronze-medal effort of 58.77 seconds. Camile Robinson, who won the event in 2004 and 2006, clocked in second at 58.05, while her sister Carlene finished fourth at 58.81.

Two more Illini scored in sixth-place Briana Cunningham (59.43) and eighth-place Alondra Cooper (1:00.50), sending the squad back into first in the team standings.

Mensah continued the victory march for the Illini and secured her fourth gold of the day in the 200m dash with a finish of 23.57 seconds. Ohio State's Favours again finished runner-up to Mensah with a time of 23.71 seconds. Indiana's Clausing edged Penn State's Cox for bronze with a time of 23.72 seconds, while the Nittany Lion senior crossed the line next at 23.76.

Michigan pulled within three points of team-leader Illinios after the 5K run behind Willard's second gold of the day. The Wolverine senior paced the field with a first-place finish of 16:23.57. Iowa's Diane Nukuri crossed the line next at 16:26.08, closely followed by Penn State's Franek in third (16:26.86). Michigan senior Erin Webster narrowly missed the podium, but scored for the Maize and Blue with a fourth-place finish of 16:27.88.

After claiming their first-ever championships title in the event last year, Penn State's quartet of Simmons, Hunter, Blake and Cox successfully defended their 4x400m relay crown with a 3:34.93 performance. Cox exacted some revenge on Illinois' Mensah in the last leg of the race, edging out a win to keep the Illini senior's medal count at four for the day. The Illini earned sivler with a time of 3:35.58, a showing that would be good enough to keep Michigan from taking over the team lead. The Hawkeyes' troupe secured bronze medal honors with a time of 3:39.64, followed by the Wolverines at 3:40.91.

With only the high jump remaining, Illinois still held a six point lead over Michigan, who sat only three tallies ahead of host Penn State.

Peaches Roach, who kicked off her Hawkeye career with gold as a freshman, reclaimed the high jump crown in the final individual championship of the day with a 6' jump. Michigan's Bettie Wade, who won the heptathlon on Saturday, also cleared the 6' mark but notched silver medal honors after the tiebreaker. The second-place finish was good for eight team points, securing the team tie with Illinois, whose freshman high jumper Alecia Beckford-Stewart sealed the draw with a seventh-place finish.

Penn State nearly narrowed the gap on the two team leaders but put forth a valiant effort for third with 121.points. Minnesota, which won the title in 2006, fell back from the lead at the end of day two to fourth with 106 points. Iowa finished sixth (81), followed by Indiana (62), Purdue (58), Wisconsin (55.50) and Michigan State (42). Ohio State rounded out the team standings with 35 points.