Big Ten Track and Field Championships Preview
May 14, 2009
All 10 of the conference’s women’s track and field programs will converge on Ohio State’s campus and Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium for the 28th annual Big Ten Women’s Outdoor Track and Field Championships. This year’s event is arguable one the most star-studded meets in championships history. Twenty athletes competing in the 2009 event are ranked among the nation’s top 10 in their respective events with four student-athletes owning the country’s No. 1 time/mark. Last year Penn State claimed the team title for the first time in school history with the sixth-highest total of any winning team in conference annals.
Penn State sophomore Shavon Greaves owns the Big Ten’s No. 1 time in both the 100 and 200 meters while teammate Fawn Door sits atop the conference’s 400-meter leaderboard. The Nittany Lions nearly swept the sprint events in 2008 with Aleesha finishing second in the 100-meter dash and Shana Cox winning the 200 and 400 meters.
The Big Ten field in the 800-meter run is without question the best among all other NCAA conferences. Indiana’s Molly Beckwith holds the nation’s top time at 2:02.51 followed by defending national champion Geena Gall of Michigan who owns the second-fastest time at 2:02.69. Minnesota’s Heather Dorniden rounds out the trio of elite Big Ten half-milers with a nationally rank of eight.
Illinois’ Angela Bizzarri proved to be on of the conference’s top distance runners this year as she stands atop the Big Ten leaderboard in both the 1,500 and 5,000 meters. Her 5,000-meter time of 15:37.39 ranks second in the country.
Expect a stellar race in the 10,000 meters with Wisconsin’s Gwen Jorgensen and Indiana’s Wendi Robinson as both runners rank within the top 10 nationally.
Along with the 800 meters, the Big Ten touts the nation’s two best 3,000-meter steeplechase runners in Michigan State’s Nicole Bush and Penn State’s Bridget Franek. Bush’s NCAA-leading time of 9:39.38 is nearly one second off of the all-time conference record set in 2007 by Michigan’s Anna Willard (9:38.08).
Two-time NCAA 100-meter hurdle champion Tiffany Ofili has been dominating her races this year, clocking the country’s best time at 12.82. Quarter-mile favorite Door is also the No. 1 seed in the 400 meter hurdles with nation’s ninth fastest result of 57.78.
The high jump competition will be a point of interest this year with four student-athletes all tied at 5-11.25 (1.81m.) Pole vault’s top mark is owned by Indiana’s Vera Neuenswander and Minnesota’s Alicia Rue at 13-9.25 (4.20m.). The conference long jump field touts 10 jumpers who have measured 20 feet or better which bodes well for an exciting competition. Michigan’s Casey Taylor looks to defend her triple jump title from 2008 as she owns the nation’s 12th-best mark this season with a 42-10.75 (13.07m.).
In the shot put, watch for Illinois’ Aja Evans and Indiana’s Tiffany Howard to display their strength while in the discus Michigan’s Emily Pendleton owns the conference’s top mark by over 12 feet. One hundred and eighty feet plus hammer throwers Stacey Wannemacher of Purdue and DeAnne Hahn of Minnesota will square off in the field while Purdue’s Kara Patterson hopes she can relive last year’s record-setting javelin throw of 202 feet to defend her title.
Three Big Ten heptathletes rank among the nation’s top seven highest point scorers in Minnesota’s Liz Roehrig, Michigan’s Bettie Wade and Penn State’s Gayle Hunter. The trio have all automatically qualified for the NCAA Championships in June. Only five other NCAA athletes have accomplished this feat in 2009.