May 24, 2006
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The 2006 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Regionals are set to begin this weekend at four sites across the country. Big Ten Champion Wisconsin will compete in the Mideast Regional as the Badgers join Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Purdue in Knoxville, Tenn., hosted by the University of Tennessee. Minnesota, the conference winner on the women's side will head to San Antonio, Texas with Iowa to compete in the Midwest Regional at the University of Texas. Penn State will be the lone league team at the East Regional as North Carolina A&T State University is set to host the event. Below is a brief outlook:
Penn State is the lone Big Ten representative in the East Regional and will be led by 2006 conference champions Mark Miller (800-meter run) and Allen Pettner (Javelin). On the women's side, the Nittany Lions are coming off a third-place finish at the league meet including event titles by Shana Cox (200-and 400-meter dash), Jennifer Leatherman (discus and hammer throw) and the 4x100- (Monique Walker, Kamilah Salaam, Sara Shoaff, Cox) and 4x400-meter relays (Kim Markel, Briene Simmons, Dominique Blake, Cox).
Seven Big Ten schools will be competing in Knoxville, Tenn., at the Mideast Regional, including conference men's team champion Wisconsin. The competition will be tough as two of the four women's squads ranked in the latest Trackwire 25 Power Rankings will be present. Michigan leads all league teams at the No. 10 spot while Illinois is tied for 23rd with Houston, Kansas State and Southern Illinois. The Badger men are the conference's lone team ranked on the men's side at 10th place.
Iowa and Minnesota will represent the conference in San Antonio, Texas, at the Midwest Regional. At the 2005 meet, both Iowa's men's and women's squads finished in 17th place out of 32 teams. The Minnesota women placed 14th at last year's regional and enter this weekend's event behind five individual titles at the Big Ten Championships, and a double-win of postseason honors as Heather Dornined was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year while head coach Gary Wilscon garnered the Coach of the Year accolade. The Gopher men tallied four gold medals in individual events.
Student-athletes qualified for the regional championships by reaching the standards established for each event or by earning automatic access as the conference event champion. The 10,000-meter run and the decathlon are the only two events that 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 2006 NCAA Championships, set to take place June 7-10 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.