May 22, 2007
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The 2007 NCAA Regionals are set to begin on Friday, May 25 at four campus sites across the country. Penn State will compete in the East Region, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin will travel to the Mideast Region, and Iowa and Minnesota will compete at the Midwest Region.
Penn State is the Big Ten's lone representative in the East Region in Gainesville Fla., hosted by the University of Florida. The Nittany Lion women finished third at this year's Big Ten Championships just 7.5 points behind first-place Illinois and Michigan. The PSU women placed a conference-best five student-athletes on the All-Big Ten first team (Aleesha Barber, Dominique Blake, Shana Cox, Gayle Hunter, Briene Simmons), while the men finished fourth -- three spots better than in 2006.
Seven Big Ten teams will compete in the Mideast Regional in Columbia, Mo., hosted by the University of Missouri. The women's contingent will be led by conference co-champions Illinois and Michigan. The Wolverines are tied for 10th in the Trackwire Top 25 and boast two of the top athletes in the country in Big Ten Track Athlete of the Year and of the Championships Anna Willard, and Bettie Wade, the conference's Field Athlete of the Year and of the Championships. Big Ten men's champion Wisconsin looks to add to its collection of hardware after having won the national indoor title in February. Demi Omole, this year's Big Ten Track Athlete of the Year and of the Championships, fronts the Badger squad. Joining the Illini, Wolverines and Badgers in the region will be Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue.
Iowa and Minnesota will represent the Big Ten at the Midwest Regional, hosted by Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. The Hawkeye women are ranked 18th in the latest Trackwire Top 25, led by Tiffany Johnson who owns the region's best time in the 100-meter hurdles, while on the men's side, A.J. Curtis owns the region's best distance in the discus. The Minnesota men will be led by Big Ten Field Athlete of the Year and of the Championships, Derek Gearman, who owns top-10 regional marks in all three jumping events. For the women, Heather Dorniden has the best time in the 800 meters while Emily Brown is tops in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
Student-athletes qualified for regional competition by reaching standards established for each event or by earning automatic access as the conference event champion. The 10,000-meter run, decathlon and heptathlon are the only events in which qualifying is based on competition outside the regional championships.
The regional format is set up so the top five individuals and top three relay teams form each of the four sites will automatically qualify for the 2007 NCAA Championships, set to take place June 6-9 at the A.G. Spanos Sports Complex in Sacramento, Calif. Sacramento State and the Sacramento Sports Commission will serve as co-hosts of the event.