February 28, 2004
IOWA CITY, IA – The old adage “records were made to be broken” held true Saturday in the first day of the 2004 Big Ten Women’s Track & Field Championships. Well, at least the records under the roof of the Recreation Building on the campus of the University of Iowa were made to be broken. Including the pentathlon total, nine of 12 events Saturday ended with track records shattered, with one being a Big Ten meet record. There was also a total of nine NCAA provisional qualifiers and one automatic.
In the end, Penn State holds the advantage after day one with 37 points, followed closely by Wisconsin with 35. Minnesota and Michigan are neck-and-neck with 28 and 27 points, respectively, while Ohio State is just a half a point behind in fifth at 26.5. Iowa (24), Michigan State (19), Purdue (16.5), Indiana (12), and Illinois (9) round out the 10-team field.
This year’s Championship began with the pentathlon, which Wisconsin’s Melissa Talbot won over Minnesota’s Jacinita Spandel, 3,751-3,638. The Badgers were helped by Erica Schoeller, who posted a third-place finish with 3,571 points. Schoeller captured the 800-meter run and long jump events in the pentathlon, while Talbot tied for first in the long jump with her teammate and in the 60-meter high hurdles as well. With the exception of the shot put, where she placed seventh, Talbot did not finish outside of the top five in the other four events. Michigan junior Jennifer Kulchar provisionally qualified in the high jump 5-11 1/4 (1.81 meters) while competing in the pentathlon where she finished seventh.
“I’m really happy right now,” said Talbot. “I’ve been really nervous the past two weeks and I’ve been trying not to stress out over it too much. I got here and out on the track, started warming up and the nervousness just went away and I was ready to go.”
Perhaps the most dominant performance of the first day of the Championships was turned in by Penn State’s Ja’Nai O’Connor in the shot put. Not only did the senior win the Conference title, but her mark of 16.81m (55’2″) was a Big Ten Championship record, a track record, and an NCAA automatic qualifier. Ohio State’s Amarachi Ukabam and Minnesota’s Liz Alabi both gained NCAA provisional status with throws of 16.20m (53’1.75″) and 15.29m (50’2″), respectively.
“Today I just wanted to go in there and do everything the same way as I have the last couple months,” said an elated O’Connor. “All semester I’ve been throwing 53 feet and fouling all of them. It really came down to, in the middle of the meet, my coach changed where I was positioned in the circle. As far as my personal highlights, this is up there, but I think I’ll wait until tomorrow to celebrate.”
When a host of Big Ten student-athletes couldn’t go any further in the pole vault, O’Connor’s teammate, Sara Dougherty, opted to go higher. The senior claimed the pole vault title and the Nittany Lion’s second title of the day, clearing 12′ 11.50″, which earned her an NCAA provisional qualifier. Jesse Strand (IOWA), Monica Stearns (MINN), Becky Heintz (OSU), and Purdue’s Jocelyn Lindsey and Megan Darraugh, all followed behind Dougherty at 12′ 5.50″.
“It feels great, it’s pretty amazing. It’s kind of a rush right now,” Dougherty said. “I think it will set in sometime tonight, but it’s still a long day tomorrow, and what it’s really about is the team. We went and saw the movie Miracle yesterday. This is the first time we’re really trying for a team gold, so that was a really big confidence booster for the whole team.”
In the 60-meter high hurdle trials, fans witness two track records in a matter of two heats. Michigan’s Robin Landfair set the Recreation Building mark at 8.48 seconds in the second of three heats and was only able to enjoy the record for a minute. Illinois freshman Yvonne Mensah took the track for the last heat and posted a time of 8.41, which was good for an NCAA provisional qualifier. Indiana’s Courtney Johnson had the third quickest time of the afternoon, registering an 8.55.
Penn State’s Connie Moore added another track record and NCAA provisional qualifier to her impressive resume, with a time of 7.38 in the 60-meter dash trials. Indiana junior Ara Towns just missed NCAA provisional status by 0.01 with a time of 7.45, second quickest on the day.
Moore set her second track record of the day, crossing the finish line of the 200-meter dash trials in 23.71 seconds. Her time was just 0.01 second off an NCAA automatic provisional, but was clearly good enough for a provisional and the top seed entering Sunday’s final. Iowa’s Shellene Williams also gained NCAA provisional status, speeding around in a time of 24.11.
Yet another track record fell in the 600-meter run as Michigan sophomore Katie Erdman, who won the event at last year’s championship, crossed the line in 1:30.73. Erdman’s time was close to two seconds faster than her closest competitor, Penn State’s Briene Simmons.
Indiana’s Michele Huber posted the top time of the day in the 400-meter trials with a 55.62. She was followed closely by Michigan’s Carly Knazze (55.69) and Iowa’s Shellene Williams (55.79).
In the 800-meter trials, Michigan senior Anna Jones’ time of 2:10.96 topped Iowa’s Michelle Lahann by a mere one-hundredth of a second. Ohio State’s Tamecia Brown won the first of the three heats with a time of 2:12.00.
Penn State miler Jenny Stevens set the pace with a time of 4:52.63, with Illinois’ Cassie Hunt and Wisconsin’s Hilary Edmondson close behind.
Ohio State’s Rosalind Goodwin got into the track-record mix, by setting her own in the long jump. The junior recorded a leap of 6.32m (20’9″) to earn an NCAA provisional qualifier and the Conference title. Her jump was 7.5 inches further than second-place finished Chi-Chi Aduba from Penn State (20′ 1.50″). Michigan State’s Sherita Williams placed third at a distance of 5.89m (19’4″).
Saturday’s action concluded with two distance events that saw another two track records broken.
In the 3,000-meter run, Wisconsin’s Hilary Edmondson set the track record and qualified provisionally for NCAAs with a time of 9:31.75. The junior beat out Michigan State’s Jamie Krzyminski (9:35.35), who also gained NCAA provisional status.
Day one of the 2004 Big Ten Championships ended with Michigan claiming the title in the distance medley relay. The Wolverines easily won with more than a six-second cushion between them and second place Illinois. Michigan’s 11:33.76 was a track record along with an NCAA provisional qualifier. The host Hawkeyes were third with a time of 11:41.77.
Entering the final day with the lead is certainly something Penn State head coach Beth Alford-Sullivan is proud of.
“I thought we had a very good day. I was pleased with our performances across the board,” she said. “Obviously our event champions stood out with Ja’Nai O’Conner setting a meet record in the shot put and Sara Dougherty winning the pole vault. I think that things are looking good for us for tomorrow, and we are keeping our eyes on everyone else in the meet.”
The final day of the 2004 Big Ten Championship will get underway Sunday with the weight throw at 10 a.m. CT. Be sure to follow along on www.bigten.org for live action and results on the final day of this year’s Championships.