The Minnesota Gophers entered the final day of the 2006 Big Ten Outdoor Championships with a lead of 25.84 points over the field, and never looked back. The Gophers lead through the first and second days in the field events propelled them to their first ever Outdoor Track Championship with a total of 152.50 points on the weekend.
In the first track event of the day, the 4x100 meter relay, Penn State's attempt to defend their championship from the 2005 version of the event was successful as the team picked up 10 valuable points in their campaign to catch the two teams in front of them in the standings. Monique Walker, Kamilah Salaam, Sara Shoaft and Shana Cox put up a time of 45.18, a regional-qualifying standard. Also putting up regional marks was the Illinois team of Tara Armstrong, Yvonne Mensah, Camile Robinson and Omoye Ugiahe, whose time of 45.63 was second.
A fast 1500-meter race was next, as eight runners from the field of 12 met the regional qualification marks on the overcast day. Michigan, who sat in second place in the overall standings, picked up 10 important points thanks to the efforts of Nicole Edwards. Edwards ran a 4:16.83 to take the championship in the event, finishing ahead of Iowa sophomore Meghan Armstrong who took second. Freshman Heather Dorniden from Minnesota added some points to the Gopher total as she took third.
A surprisingly dominating performance in the 100-meter hurdles came from freshman Tiffany Ofili, whose time of 13.37 seconds earned her the championship in the event. The closest competitor was Tiffany Johnson of Iowa who finished with a time of 13.62, while Camile Robinson of Illinois picked up third just 0.08 seconds behind Johnson.
The discuss throw was the next event to be completed, as it was again Jennifer Leatherman and Liz Podominick battling it out for the championship. After Podominick of Minnesota took yesterday's shot put, Leatherman of Penn State got some redemption by winning the discus with a throw of 51.10 meters. Podominick's throw of 49.47 seconds was second while her Gopher teammate, senior Jessica Stephan, took third.
The 400-meter event was a demonstration of the dominance of Penn State's Shana Cox. The tall junior finished almost one-half of a second faster than her nearest competitor, Ayrizanna Favours of Ohio State. The Buckeye freshman walks out of her first outdoor championships with a time of 53.21 seconds and picked up eight team points. Chanelle Campbell of Michigan helped her team's come-from-behind campaign by earning six third-place points.
Next on the schedule was the 100-meter dash, a race that was sure to be fast and competitive. Ara Towns succeeded in her quest for a Big Ten Championship in her last opportunity, as she picked up a regional-championship qualifying time of 11.61 seconds. The race was as close as possible, with the top four competitors each being separated by just one one-hundredth of a point. Illinois' Yvonne Mensah, yesterday's long jump champion, was the runner up today with Jenna Harris of Ohio State and Shauntia Lucas of Wisconsin finishing third and fourth, respectively.
In the women's 800-meter event, it was a pair of freshman in their first Big Ten Outdoor Championship taking first and second place. Geena Gall of Michigan and Heather Dorniden battled it out and finished just four one-hundredths of a second apart. Gall's time of 2:02.73 is a new Big Ten championships record, and also helped the Wolverines close the gap in the team competition by gaining 10 points to Dorniden's eight.
Just as they had all season, Camile and Carlene Robinson finished one and two in the 400-meter hurdles. The sisters finished with respective times of 57.79 seconds and 58.51 seconds to pick up big points for the Illini. Finishing third in the event was Kim Markel of Penn State, with a 59.14 second mark.
It was Cox of Penn State who again dominated the field, this time in the 200-meter dash. Her time of 23.41 seconds added another Big Ten Championship to her resume, and added 10 points to the Nittany Lion total. Ohio State's Jenna Harris took second place points with her time of 23.68 seconds, and Kadian Douglas of Minnesota added important points to the Gopher first-place total.
In the triple jump, senior Taren James of Michigan State wanted to put the exclamation point on her career in what would be her final home meet. She will advance to compete in the regional competition after a championship jump of 12.35 meters. Kristina Jones finished in second place, narrowly missing James' mark with a 12.34 meter jump of her own. Iowa's Tiffany Johnson was also right in the midst with a 12.32 meter mark, as all three top finishers met regional qualification standards.
The high jump was next for the female competitors as Ohio State's Jessie Stringer cleared the bar set at 1.78 meters for the win. Peaches Roach of Iowa and Caitlin Roemhildt of Minnesota finished second and third, respectively, each with jumps of 1.75 meters. Roach won the tiebreaker, which was the number of attempts before their successful jump. Mariesa Greene of Illinois and Bettie Wade of Michigan finished fourth and fifth, and were not able to gain ground on Minnesota in the team standings.
The final event of the championship is a crowd favorite, the 4x400, and the runners did not disappoint. The teams were seeded in order of their school's overall standings, adding to the excitement. Though Minnesota could not be caught in the race for first place, a number of other rankings were up for grabs in the event.
Coming into the final leg of the relay, defending champion Illinois had built a substantial lead. After the handoff, however, Penn State's Cox took matters into her own hands. Cox received the baton just after Camile Robinson of Illinois, but took over the lead in the back stretch. By the final curve, Cox had built a lead of her own that Robinson could not take back, and held on to give Penn State the win. It was the third event championship of the day for the Nittany Lion after wins in the 200 and 400 meters.