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COLUMBUS, Ohio – No. 20 Ohio State travels to Minneapolis, Minn., this weekend for the 2010 Big Ten Indoor Championships, looking to capture its first team title in 17 years.

Championship Basics
Days: Saturday, Feb. 27 (9:00 a.m. – 5:20 p.m. ET) and Sunday, Feb. 28 (11:20 a.m. – 3:45 p.m. ET)
Venue: University Fieldhouse – Minneapolis, Minn.
Television: The Big Ten Network will televise an hour-long highlight show from the 2010 championships on a tape-delayed basis, airing Tuesday, March 9 at 9 p.m. ET.
Live Stats: www.gophersports.com or www.bigten.org  

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

A three-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 this season include 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 has picked up right where he left off, claiming two Big Ten Track Athlete of the Week awards and a Top 10 nationally in the 400m, all while leading the Buckeye ‘A’ team to an undefeated indoor 4×400 record.

Cory Leslie has burst on to the scene this season, writing his name into the Ohio State record books in several events. At the Meyo Invitational earlier this month, Leslie broke the school 1000m record with a time of 2:22.48. A week earlier, the redshirt freshman ran the sixth-best indoor mile time in Ohio State history (4:03.14).

A threat in both the weight throw and shot put, sophomore Matt DeChant has witnessed steady improvement in his performances throughout the season – he is a week removed from winning Big Ten Field Athlete of the Week after two first-place finishes and NCAA provisional marks at the Buckeye Tune-up.

Scouting the Best of the Big Ten
No. 7 Indiana – The Big Ten’s top-ranked squad is strong in both the field and distance events. All-American Derick Dourin – the 2009 NCAA outdoor runner-up in pole vault – is the top DI high jumper this season, clearing the bar at 2.24m in early January. Two-time All-American Jeff Coover is the favorite in the pole vault, owning the nation’s third-best jump this season (5.50m). A pair of Andrew’s – Bayer and Poole – lead a strong distance squad to Minneapolis. 

No. 11 Penn State – One of the conference’s most improved squad, the Nittany Lion’s feature Ryan Foster, No. 2 in the NCAA and the Penn State school record holder in the 800m run. Foster and Penn State could dominate the 800m, as fellow Lions Owen Dawson and Casimir Loxsom are also ranked in the DI Top 5 in the event. In the shot put, Joe Kovacs and Blake Eaton both hold Top 15 marks nationally. 

No. 17 Minnesota – The defending Big Ten champions are led by All-Americans Hassan Mead, Chris Rombough and R.J. McGinnis. Six-time All-American Mead and four-time All-American Rombough will be a threats in both the 3000m and 5000m, while McGinnis – an NCAA automatic qualifier in the heptathlon – will lead a trio of Gophers in an event Minnesota dominated at the 2009 conference championships.

No. 30 Wisconsin – The Badgers have dominated the Big Ten for the past decade, winning eighth indoor titles in the past 10 years. UW has long been known for its outstanding distance program – six-time All-American Craig Miller and three-time All-American Jack Bolas are the leaders of another deep squad that will challenge for the title in almost every distance event. Miller holds Top 10 times nationally in both the mile and 3000m, while Bolas is also a strong runner in the 3000m

Buckeye History at the Big Ten Indoor Championships
Ohio State has won five Big Ten indoor championships and 116 individual titles since joining the Big Ten Conference in 1913, the last team title coming in 1993 under Coach Russ Rogers.

Rogers led the track and field program to new heights in the early 90s, as the Buckeyes claimed seven top four finishes at the indoor championships from 1990-1996.

OSU’s first title came in 1942 under Larry Snyder. Snyder guided the Scarlet and Gray to three consecutive titles from 1948-1950.

Former All-American Andrew Pierce was named Athlete of the Championship in 2001 after setting three Big Ten records and leading OSU to a third place finish. Pierce still holds indoor records in the 200m and 400m dashes and in the 4x400m relay.

NCAA Champion Dan Taylor, a 2004 Ohio State graduate, holds the Big Ten indoor record in the weight throw, which he set in 2003 with a hurl of 22.35m. Tom Byers has a retired championship record in the 1000 yard run, which he set on an eight-lap, unbanked track in 1974.

DeChant Named Big Ten Field Athlete of the Week
Sophomore Matt DeChant was named Field Athlete of the Week Feb. 22 by the Big Ten Conference after a career day at the Buckeye Tune-up last Friday.

DeChant led the Ohio State effort at French Field House, posting two personal records and NCAA provisional marks. The sophomore crushed his previous career best in the shot put with a first-place toss of 18.56m, the sixth-best in Ohio State indoor history, third-best in the Big Ten and No. 12 on the Division I performance list. He followed that up with a first-place finish in the weight throw at 19.88m, second-best in the conference and a Top 25 mark nationally.

The award is the first of DeChant’s career and the first field accolade for a Buckeye since Lenny Jatsek took home the honor in Feb. 2008. It is the fourth weekly decoration for Ohio State this season – Thomas Murdaugh won back-to-back awards in January, while Jeff See’s sub-four mile at the Meyo Invitational two weeks ago earned him the title.

Buckeyes Move Up in USTFCCCA National Rankings, Remain No. 1 in Great Lakes
The Ohio State men’s track and field team is ranked No. 20 in the Feb. 23 edition of the NCAA Division I National Team Rankings by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association, a four spot improvement from its standing last week.

With a total of 46.10 points, Ohio State is one of four Big Ten teams featured in the national poll. The conference banner is carried by No. 7 Indiana, with No. 11 Penn State, 17th-ranked Minnesota and the Buckeyes also representing the league.

Ohio State remains No. 1 in the Great Lakes Regional Rankings for the fourth consecutive week. With a total of 394.64 points, the Buckeyes have the fourth-highest team score in the nation. 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. Wisconsin is the second-ranked team in the Great Lakes with a score of 370.46, followed by Indiana, Purdue and Akron.

OSU Posts Seven Top 25 Performances Nationally
While the Buckeyes move up the polls as a team, four individuals (and a relay team) find themselves ranked within the Top 25 in several event areas. A look at where members of the men’s track and field team sit:

Jeff See – No. 7 in the mile (3:58.82), No. 14 in the 3000m (7:57.14)
Daniel White – No. 7 in the 800m (1:48.26)
Thomas Murdaugh – seventh in the 400m (46.43)
Matt DeChant – No. 12 in the shot put (18.56m), 25th in the weight throw (19.88m)
4x400m relay (Woodard, Simms, Robinson, Murdaugh) – No. 14 (3:08.22)

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
DeChant’s performance was one of several highlights for Ohio State last Friday at the Buckeye Tune-up. 

Adam Green set a personal record of 4:08.71 in the mile to finish in first-place. Freshman Donny Roys – competing unattached – was second in 4:10.89, followed by Will Knickel (4:18.32). 

Freshman Korbin Smith won the long jump at 7.13m (23-4.75), finishing well ahead of volunteer assistant coach Patrick Woods (6.68m/21-11). Heath Nickles finished fourth with a jump of 6.44m (21-1.50). Smith’s leap is the seventh-best in the Big Ten this year.

Clearing the bar at 4.88m (16 ft.), Nickles would follow up his performance in the long jump with a win in the pole vault. Alan Dague was second (4.73m/15-6.25) and Woods third (4.57m/15 ft.).

Ohio State swept the Top 3 spots in the 60m dash. Stephen Robinson led the Buckeyes with a first-place time of 6.95, followed by Jonathan Francois (7.01) and Smith (7.05). Francois and Smith’s times were PRs.

Five Buckeyes battled for the title in the 600m run. Junior Daniel White got the best of his teammates with a first-place run of 1:19.52, the top team time on the season. Jared Hall ran a season-best time of 1:20.32 to finish second. Elon Simms was third in 1:20.78, with Marcus Brooks (1:21.86) and Brandon Woodard (1:22.38) taking fourth and fifth, respectively. 

Chris Fallon won the 1000m run with a time of 2:27.17, edging senior Taylor Candella, who finished second with a season-best time of 2:27.34. Daryl Murphy rounded out the OSU effort (2:30.22).

Up Next
The Buckeyes will compete at the Alex Wilson Invitational next Friday and Saturday, Mar. 5-6, in South Bend, Ind.