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Ohio State looks to challenge for first conference title since 1993

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State returns to Bloomington, Ind., for the second time in a week to compete at the 2010 Big Ten Championships this Friday-Sunday (May 14-16) on the campus of Indiana University.

The two-time defending conference runner-up Buckeyes will be a favorite to finish near the top of the conference standings once again. If the Scarlet and Gray manage to capture the title this weekend, it will mark the first time since 1993 that the championship trophy returns in Columbus.

Championship Basics
Days: Friday, May 14 (12:00 p.m. – 9:15 p.m. ET); Saturday, May 15 (9:30 a.m. – 6:45 p.m.) and Sunday, May 16 (11:00 a.m. – 3:45 p.m.)
Venue: Robert C. Haugh Complex – Bloomington, Ind.
Television: The Big Ten Network will be on hand to cover all the action from the 2010 Outdoor Championships. Tom Werme, Rod Woodson, Rebecca Harlow and Larra Overton will have call, to be aired on a tape-delayed basis Saturday, May 22 at 4:00 p.m. ET.
Live Results: iuhoosiers.cstv.com or www.bigten.org   

The Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State is led on the track by a pair of All-Americans in senior Jeff See and sophomore Thomas Murdaugh.

A four-time All-American in both track and cross country, See is one of the top middle distance runners in the nation, having twice competed in the 1500m at the NCAA championships. Highlights during the indoor season included a sixth-place finish at the NCAA championships, a sub-four minute mile at the Meyo Invitational (3:58.82, second-best in OSU indoor history) and a time of 7:57.14 in the 3000 run, the third-best in school history.

Sophomore Murdaugh enjoyed a breakout freshman season in 2009, competing in the 400m at both the indoor and outdoor national championships while earning All-American honors during the outdoor season. Murdaugh was also the anchor of two Big Ten champion 4x400m relay teams. The Dublin, Ohio product was the class of the Big Ten during the indoor season, capturing Athlete of the Year awards from both the Big Ten and U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA), along with Big Ten championships in the 400m and 4x400m relay. He concluded the indoor campaign with a ninth-place finish at NCAAs.

Sophomore All-American Matt DeChant leads the Buckeyes in the field events. Although he has had a relatively quiet outdoor campaign to this point in the season, DeChant is capable of scoring big for Ohio State. The Avon Lake, Ohio native finished 10th in the shot put at the 2010 NCAA Indoor Championships after posting a fourth-place finish in the weight throw and sixth-place in the shot put at the conference finals.

Other Buckeyes who will be in the mix over the weekend include defending indoor champion Stephen Robinson in the 200m, Daniel White in the 800m, Cory Leslie and Adam Green in the steeplechase and Korbin Smith in the long jump.

Scouting the Best of the Big Ten
Minnesota – The three-time defending Big Ten champion Gophers will look for 2010 indoor champs R.J. McGinnis, Ben Peterson, Harun Abda and Ben Blankenship to lead their pursuit of a fourth-consecutive title. All-American McGinnis, the defending Big Ten heptathlon champ is the top decathlete in the conference heading into the weekend, while Peterson and indoor All-Americans Abda and Blankenship will be threats to repeat. A-A Chris Rombough will also be a factor of Minnesota in the distance events, having proven himself time again this outdoor season in both the 1500m and 5000m runs.

No. 22 Penn State – One of the conference’s most improved squads, the Nittany Lions feature All-American Ryan Foster, No. 9 in the NCAA and the Penn State school record holder in the 800m run. Penn State could dominate the 800m, as fellow Lions Owen Dawson, Lionel Williams and Casimir Loxsom are all ranked in the Division I Top 30 in the event, with Loxsom second nationally. In the shot put, All-Americans Joe Kovacs and Blake Eaton are both threats to take the title – Kovacs sits at No. 6 in the current DI standings. 

Indiana – The Hoosiers are led by All-American Derek Drouin, the defending NCAA indoor champion in the high jump, currently sixth nationally. All-American Jeff Coover, a Top 15 DI athlete in the pole vault, is one of the favorites in that event. A pair of Andrew’s – Bayer and Poole – highlights a strong distance squad that will be competing on its home track.

Wisconsin – The Badgers have been the dominate Big Ten program over the past decade, winning seven outdoor titles in the past 10 years. UW has long been known for its outstanding distance program – seven-time All-American Craig Miller is the leader of another deep squad that will challenge for the title in almost every distance event. Ryan Gasper is one of the top steeplechasers in the country and will be the favorite to claim the conference championship this weekend for the second-consecutive year.

Buckeye History at the Outdoor Championships
Ohio State has claimed four titles, 48 Top 5 finishes and more than 100 individual championships since the inception of the league finals in 1913.

The Buckeyes’ first title came in 1942, led by Robert Wright’s victories in the 70-yard high and low hurdles. Coach Larry Snyder earned his second title at Ohio State six years later in 1948, fueled by Buckeye victories in the one-mile relay, 440-yard run, 70-yard high hurdles and broad jump.

The Scarlet and Gray dominated the Big Ten in the early 1990s under longtime coach Russ Rogers, winning back-to-back titles in 1992 and 1993 while taking second in both 1991 and 1994. Rogers was named Big Ten Coach of the Year in 1993 based on his team’s outstanding accomplishments.

The new millennium has witnessed a great deal of Buckeye success in individual competition. Former All-American Andrew Pierce was named Athlete of the Championships in 2001 – he still holds the meet record in the 400m dash. 2004 NCAA Champion Dan Taylor, the 2003 Big Ten Athlete of the Year holds the championship record in the weight throw.

Recapping the 2009 Outdoor Championships
In front of its home town fans at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, the Ohio State men’s track and field team finished in second-place at the 2009 Big Ten Outdoor Championships last May.

The Buckeyes’ 103 points earned them their highest team finish since taking second-place at the 2001 championships. Minnesota completed a clean sweep of both the indoor and outdoor championships for the ’09 season with their 130 point total. Michigan finished third with 100 points.

Michigan held a two point advantage over the Buckeyes headed into the final event, the 4x400m run. Thomas Murdaugh ran a torrid final leg to overtake Illinois All-American Gakologelwang Masheto and give the Buckeyes the victory in a regional qualifying time of 3:09.61. The Illini finished second in 3:09.68, followed by Wisconsin at 3:11.80. Michigan slipped to third in the overall standings by way of their fourth-place finish in 3:12.58.

Ohio State used four near-perfect exchanges to take the title in the 4x100m relay with a regional qualifying time of 40.63, edging Illinois (40.63) down the stretch.

Senior Patrick Woods, now a volunteer assistant with the Buckeyes, won the Big Ten title in the decathlon with a personal best score of 7405, second-best score school history. Minnesota’s R.J. McGinnis, a heavy favorite headed into the meet, took second with 7330 points.

Murdaugh finished second in the 400m dash with a personal record time of 46.26. The Buckeye freshman battled Illinois senior Gakologelwang Masheto throughout the race, as the two pulled away from the rest of the field over the final 100. Masheto had just enough in the tank to hold of Murdaugh, as the UI senior won the race with a Big Ten season best time of 46.24.

A personal record throw of 18.58m in the shot put secured a second-place finish for senior Patrick Whalen. The fourth-best mark in school history was bested by Minnesota junior Aaron Studt at 18.75m. Whalen also finished third in the finals of the discus throw with a toss of 51.53m.

Curtis Leuenberger took the field by surprise with second-place finish in the 200m dash in a season best time of 21.07. All-American Adam Harris of Michigan was the victor in 20.78, with Masheto of Illinois following his 400m victory with a third-place run of 21.17.

Jeff See finished third in the 1500m with a time of 3:58.17. The field set a slow pace early on as See ran near the back of the pack for most of the race before making a final kick over the back stretch to slide into the third spot. Wisconsin took one-two with Craig Miller claiming the title in 3:57.57 and Jeff Bolas finishing second in 3:57.72.

Buckeyes Remain Third in USTFCCCA Great Lakes Regional Rankings
Ohio State held firm to the No. 3 spot in the May 11 edition of the USTFCCCA Great Lakes regional rankings.

With 646.28 team points, the Buckeyes trail Big Ten rivals Wisconsin (781.21) and Indiana (699.70) in the region. Rounding out the Top 5 are in-state foe Akron and Notre Dame.

The regional rankings – a new concept for the 2010 season – are designed to measure a team’s overall depth, whereas the national poll places greater emphasis on national championship contenders on a team’s roster. Based on this formula, OSU ranks among the Top 20 teams nationally.

Top 50 Buckeyes
Eight members of the Ohio State men’s track and field team are ranked among the Top 50 in individual event competition by the USTFCCCA. A look at where the Buckeyes stand:

Jeff See – No. 14 in the 5000m
Thomas Murdaugh – No. 14 in the 400m
Adam Green – No. 16 in the steeplechase
Elon Simms – No. 32 in the 400m hurdles
Tyler Branch – No. 34 in the shot put
Cory Leslie – No. 35 in the steeplechase
Korbin Smith – No. 44 in the long jump
Ryan Blake – No. 47 in the high jump

In addition, the Buckeyes’ 4x400m relay team of Brandon Woodard, Smith, Simms and Murdaugh checks in at No. 22 on the national list.

World’s Best
Buckeyes Jared Hall, Cory Leslie, Daniel White and Jeff See posted what at the time was a 2010 world-best performance in the 4x800m relay April 23 at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa.

Also a school record, Ohio State’s time of 7:17.68 was only three seconds off of the Drake Stadium record. Big Ten rival Minnesota finished second in 7:18.18 as the Buckeyes sprinted past a deep and talented field of 15.

“This is obviously a tremendous accomplishment for our middle distance guys,” head coach Robert Gary said after the race. “It’s even more exciting considering three of our guys are preparing for races tomorrow. Jeff (See) being a senior led the way for us, but all three of our runners ran great to help our position. Jared Hall really helped us out with a 1:48 spilt, a personal best.”

The University of Virginia 4x800m relay team would top the Buckeyes’ effort with a winning time of 7:15.38 in the “Championship of America” at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia April 24.

Gee Casts Vote for Jesse Owens
Gordon Gee, President of The Ohio State University, cast his vote for Jesse Owens at the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus March 20. Owens is one of 10 candidates for a monument placement representing Ohio at Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C.

Owens, one of the great athletes of the 20th century, rose to international prominence as a student-athlete at Ohio State in the early 30s, recording world indoor records in both the 60-meter dash and 60-yard dash.
The defining moment of Owens’ career came in the 1936 Olympics in Nazi-controlled Berlin, Germany. Owens shattered Adolf Hitler’s myth of Aryan superiority by winning gold medals in the 100-meter dash, 200-meter dash, broad jump and as a member of the United States 4×100-meter relay team.

In 1950, the Associated Press named Owens its Track Athlete of the First Half-Century. In 1955, the State Department named him America’s “Ambassador of Sports.” Owens toured the world, meeting with government and sports officials and promoting the virtues of amateur sports programs. In 1976, President Gerald Ford presented Owens with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the United States Medal of Freedom.

Gee cast his ballot on the opening day for the Historical Society’s “Legacy for Ohio” campaign. The public vote runs until June 12 and will play a large part in determining Ohio’s Legacy statue. Visit www.OhioHistory.org for voting information and site locations.

Join the Olympian Club!
A new fund-raising initiative created by head coach Robert Gary, the Ohio State ‘Olympian Club’ hopes to generate financial support for track and field/cross country projects that are beyond the budget but extremely valuable in enhancing the experiences of the program’s student-athletes.

Besides supporting the members of the 2010 Buckeye track and field/cross country teams both on and off the track, donations will afford the Buckeyes the opportunity to continue to operate in a first-class manner, while setting a new standard for Division I programs.

For information visit the men’s track and field home page at www.OhioStateBuckeyes.com.       

Head Coach Robert Gary
Robert Gary is in his fourth season as the head men’s track and field coach and his 13th coaching the cross country team at Ohio State.

Gary ended a decorated running career in 2005. In 2004, he became the fifth former Buckeye to gain a bid to two separate U.S. Olympic teams and continued running by making the finals for the 11th-straight year at the 2005 USA Nationals.

A 1996 participant at the Atlanta Games, Gary placed second in the men’s steeplechase at the Olympic Trials with a career-best 8:19.46. Eight years later, his third-place finish at the trials gained an automatic bid on the U.S. team headed to Athens, Greece for the 2004 Olympic Games.

Gary also earned honors as a cross country athlete, winning the 2004 Track and Field News Cross Country Runner of the Year. He qualified for the U.S. team for the second-straight season in both the four-kilometer and 12-kilometer events and finished as the top American at the 2004 World Championships in the 4k. Gary’s 2004 qualification to the world championships in two events marked the first time a U.S. runner made both teams in consecutive years and moved his tally to 11 national cross country teams qualified for.

In 2003, Gary qualified for his sixth United States world cross country team by winning the 2003 U.S. 4-kilometer Cross Country Championship in Houston, Texas. That same year, he claimed a third-place standing in the steeplechase at the USATF championships in June with a time of 8:24.82. Gary ended the year by representing the U.S. at the 2003 Outdoor World Championship en route to earning a No. 3 ranking by Track and Field News. During the 2002 outdoor campaign, Gary ran the fourth-fastest time by an American in the 3000-meter steeplechase. As a result of his performance, Gary was ranked among the Top 10 in the U.S. for the seventh-straight year.

As a student-athlete at Ohio State from 1992-1995, Gary was a six-event All-American, winning the Big Ten 3000m steeplechase outdoor title in 1994, where he set the Ohio State and Big Ten record in the event. He was a three-time All-Big Ten selection and member of three Big Ten champion teams (1992 outdoor, and 1993 indoor and outdoor).

Along with his numerous accolades in cross country and track, Gary has established himself as one of the nation’s elite coaches. Former Buckeye greats Rob Myers (1500m), Dan Huling (steeplechase) and Brian Olinger (steeplechase) along with current Buckeye Jeff See (1500m) trained under Gary while preparing for the 2008 Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore. Myers, Huling and Olinger advanced to the finals of their events before coming up short while See – just a sophomore at the time – missed the finals by one spot. Gary was selected to be an assistant coach for Team USA’s U23 team in July 2008 at the North America, Central America and Caribbean Athletic Association (NACAC) meet in Toluca, Mexico. Joining him was See, who competed in the 1500m run. Myers and Huling finished the year having run the second-fastest times by an American in their respective events. At the 2009 USATF Championships, two former (Olinger and Huling) and one current Buckeye (See) qualified for final day competition, with Huling making the USA track and field team after a second-place finish in 8:32.86. In Sept. 2009, Huling ran the sixth-best steeplechase in U.S. history, finishing fourth at the Brussels Golden League in 8:14.69 while shattering the previous American-best time in 2009 by more than seven seconds.  

Coach Gary’s student-athletes are known nationally for their work in the classroom – 18 members of the 2009 track and field team were named Academic All-Big Ten, while five members of the cross country team claimed the honor. The cross country team was named 2009 Division I All-Academic for the eighth straight season.

A recent inductee into the Ohio State Athletics Hall of Fame, Gary received a degree in English education from Ohio State in the fall of 1996.

Last Time Out
Ohio State wrapped up final preparations for next weekend’s Big Ten championships May7 at the Billy Hayes Invitational in Bloomington, Ind.

Senior Elon Simms captured first-place in the 400m hurdles with a time of 52.13, the seventh-best performance in the Big Ten season. Teammate Aaron Roberts finished third in 53.06, just behind second-place finisher Sutton Coleman of Rose-Hulman.

Ohio State placed two runners in the Top 4 of the 1500m run – Adam Green led the way, finishing second with a time of 3:49.77, while Jake Edwards took fourth in 3:51.41. Purdue claimed the other two spots, with Simon Rogers finishing in first (3:46.41) and Ladd Mercer third (3:51.41). In the 1500m invitational, Cory Leslie ran a time of 3:51.32 to take second-place behind Derek Scott of Brooks (3:50.23).

Redshirt freshman Jared Hall ran a, 800m PR of 1:50.37 to finish in third-place. Eastern Illinois swept the Top 2 spots, with Jason Springer (1:49.60) edging Sean Wiggin (1:50.10) for the win.

First-place in the high jump went to defending NCAA indoor champion Derek Drouin, who cleared the bar at 2.23m (7-3.75), a season-best for the sophomore, the top jump in the Big Ten and sixth-best nationally. Buckeye Cody Westbrook finished sixth (1.92m/6-3.50).

Cory Martin of Nike set the Hayes meet record in the hammer throw with his first-place toss of 71.84m (235-08). Billy Gehrig finished eighth at 57.18m (187-07), while Max Mays set a PR at 56.02m (183-09), the ninth-best toss on the day.

Up Next
Ohio State will travel to Greensboro, N.C., on May 27 for the 2010 NCAA East Regional Championship.