Sport Summary - Indoor Track & Field
Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin have combined for 20 of the 25 Big Ten championships in indoor track and field since 1982. The Wolverines have claimed a conference-best eight titles, followed by the Badgers' seven and the Fighting Illini's five. In addition to the three dominant programs, Indiana (3 titles), Penn State (1) and Purdue (1) have managed to reign supreme over the conference.
Wisconsin captured the first-ever Big Ten championship and five of the first six, with exception of 1983 when Michigan won its first. Illinois picked up all five of its championships during an eight-year span from 1989-96, led by five-time Big Ten Coach of the Year Gary Winckler and two-time Athlete of the Year and Championships Tonja Buford (1992-93). The Wolverines have added most of their titles since 1998, winning six of their eight in the past nine years. U-M's James Henry has won a conference-best six Coach of the Year awards, including consecutive honors in 2002-03 and 2005-06.
Helping the Badgers to early success was the most-celebrated female track and field athlete in Big Ten history, Suzy Favor. The lone three-time indoor Athlete of the Year, Favor was twice Athlete of the Championships in 1989 and 1990, the 1990 NCAA champion in the 3,000-meter run and a three-time NCAA champion in the mile. A few years later, Wisconsin boasted another three-time NCAA champion in Amy Wickus, who captured the 800-meter run titles from 1993-95. In addition, Wisconsin's Clare Eichner won the NCAA mile and 3,000-meter run titles in 1993. Those individual performances helped the Badgers to an impressive streak nationally in which UW finished in the top-five at the NCAA Championships in 1990 (2nd), 1992 (T-4th) and 1993 (2nd).
Three of the five conference student-athletes who have captured Athlete of the Year honors at least twice are Badgers. Along with Favor and Wickus (1994-95), Kathy Butler earned the annual honor at Wisconsin in 1996 and 1997, while Illinois' Buford and Ohio State's Donica Merriman (2000-01) complete the elite group.
Other notable performances include a host of Big Ten record holders set by Penn State field athletes in recent years. Chi-Chi Aduba set the conference's triple jump mark of 44'01.50" in 2003, Ja'Nai O'Connor won in 2004 with a toss of 55'02.00" in the shot put, and Jennifer Leatherman heaved the weight throw a record 69'11.50" in 2005. Leatherman, the reigning Athlete of the Year, bested her conference record by an astonishing 4'11.00" with a winning toss of 74'10.50" at the 2006 Big Ten Championships.