2008 Outdoor Track and Field NCAA Championships Preview
June 9, 2008
Ninety-three student athletes from all 10 Big Ten track and field schools will represent the conference, June 11-14, at the 2008 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, Iowa. The event will be hosted by Drake University. The last time Drake hosted the NCAA Championships was in 1970 when track and field legend Steve Prefontaine won his first of four 3-mile/5,000 meter titles competing as a freshman at Oregon.
Headlining this year's trip to Des Moines are the nine women of No. 7 Penn State, sending more athletes than any other conference squad. Shana Cox will look to do her part in hopes of bringing home two gold medals and perhaps the team title. Her quarter-mile time of 50.84 ranks first among all competitors and PSU's 1600-meter relay team of Dominique Blake, Aleesha Barber, Cox and Gayle Hunter boast the top time of 3:28.92. Sophomore Bridget Franek owns the meets third-fastest steeplechase time of 9:58.56 as she has an outside chance of taking home the event crown. Barber considers to be a factor in the 100-meter hurdles, ranking fourth. Also in the 400-meters, ranking ninth, is Blake with a time of 52.15.
Minnesota will send a total of 13 student-athletes to the Championships. On the women's side, the No. 12 Gopher squad house a plethora of talent with six athletes seeded in the top 10 of their respective event (Liz Roehrig-heptathlon, Ruby Radocaj-javelin, Heather Dorniden-800, Alicia Rue-pole vault, Liz Podominick-discus, Jamie Cheever-steeplechase). The men's team is looking for success in the 5,000-meter run, fielding two competitors in the top 13 with Hassan Mead and Chris Rombough. Seeded eighth in the shot put is sophomore Aaron Studt, as he looks to come home with an NCAA medal.
Thirteen Badgers will compete in Drake Stadium this week, 11 of them being distance athletes. The men's 1,500-meter run will feature three Wisconsin runners in Jack Bolas, Evan Jager, Craig Miller. The 5,000 meters will showcase sophomores Ryan Gasper and Brandon Bethke and the 10,000-meter race yields Christian Wagner and Landon Peacock. The women's team will display No. 4 seed Gwen Jorgensen in the 5,000 meters and No. 7 seed Katrina Rundhaug in the 10,000 meters.
The No. 16 Michigan women's team will travel eight participants and has a promising chance to rack up quality points. Receiving the Wolverine's highest seed is junior Geena Gall as she holds down fourth in the 800 meters with a time of 2:03.64. Notching fifth-seeded times are Tiffany Ofili (100-meter Hurdles) and Bettie Wade (heptathlon), also keep an eye on junior Casey Taylor in the long jump, ranking 10th.
Purdue sends six men and six women to the NCAA event, five more competitors than last season. Headling the Boilermaker bunch is junior Kara Patterson with her U.S. leading javelin toss of 202-00 (61.56m), thrown at the Big Ten Championships meet. On the runway, look for ninth seeded Leah Kincaid to medal in the long jump. On the men's side, Eric Sparks (pole vault) and Josh Hembrough (110-meter Hurdles) consider to be Purdue's best chance for hardware.
Some other top individuals competing this week is the Iowa duo of Diane Nukuri and Meghan Armstrong. These two rank second and sixth, respectively, in the 10,000 meter race. Ohio State's Jenna Griffin enters the NCAA meet seeded sixth in the 400-meter dash, receiving the same rank with her 4X400-meter relay team. Representing Indiana's best medal chance is No. 4 seed Abbie Stechschulte in the heptathlon.
For the men, OSU's Jeff See has a shot at making a podium appearance seeded sixth in the 1,500 meters with time of 3:40.86. Hoosiers Kyle Jenkins and Kiwan Lawson look to end their collegiate career with an NCAA medal in the triple jump and long jump, respectively.