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CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Junior All-American Thomas Murdaugh won the sixth Big Ten title of his career Sunday at the 2011 Big Ten Indoor Championships, leading the 22nd-ranked Ohio State men’s track and field team to a fifth-place finish in Champaign, Ill.
Murdaugh was dominant in winning the second conference 400m title of his career, crossing the finish line in 46.81 to bring home the win and 10 points toward the Buckeyes’ team score. Brady Gehret of Penn State was the runner-up in 47.19.

Despite holding a four-point lead heading into the final day of competition, the Buckeyes were unable to manufacture enough points to keep pace with the title contenders Sunday. No. 20 Minnesota won its fourth-consecutive conference championship, ending the day with 117.333 points. Second-place went to No. 3 Indiana (104.5 points), followed in order by No. 16 Wisconsin (96), No. 15 Iowa (88) and the Buckeyes.

“Obviously, the team and staff are disappointed,” Ohio State head coach Robert Gary said after the meet. “We have been in the Top 3 the last couple years, and I believed we could get to 100 points for sure. It just didn’t happen today.”

Michael Hartfield wrapped up an impressive debut on the conference stage, earning eight points and runner-up honors in the triple jump at 15.70m behind Iowa’s Troy Doris (16.00m) – Hartfield captured the first Big Ten title of his career Saturday with a win in the long jump.

“We got great meets from both Murdaugh and Hartfield, as well as from guys like Cory Leslie, Korbin Smith and Max Mays, people we expected to step up” Gary said. “Unfortunately, there were no real surprises after that.”

The real surprise of the meet came in the 4x400m, where Iowa snapped the Buckeyes’ two year reign atop the conference, edging the Scarlet and Gray at the finish line for first-place in a time of 3:12.53. OSU’s second-place time of 3:12.53 earned the team eight points and was more than enough to hold off third-place Wisconsin (3:14.78).

“We feel like we have the pieces to be better and as the head coach, I am most disappointed in my performance,” Gary said. “This will only serve to motivate us more when the outdoor meet comes around.”

Here’s an event-by-event breakdown of day two in Champaign for Ohio State:

60m Hurdle Prelims
Freshman Demoye Bogle posted a PR of 7.88 – the third-best time in school history – to finish in third-place, capturing 6 points for the Buckeyes in the process. Andrew Riley of Illinois crossed the finish line in 7.78 for a first-place finish.

200m Dash

Murdaugh finished third in the finals of the 200m dash with a time of 21.47. Iowa’s Justin Austin took home first place in a time of 21.23 and Indiana’s Kind Butler second (21.35).

600m Run
Sophomore Marcus Brooks set a PR of 1:19.29, finishing in sixth place behind champion Harun Abda of Minnesota (1:17.35) – the junior earned 2 points toward the Buckeyes’ team score. 

800m Run
Jared Hall finished in eighth place with a time of 1:56.66, good for 1 team point. Penn State All-American Ryan Foster took home gold thanks to a 1:49.98 run.

Mile Run
Leslie finished fourth in the most competitive event of the day, the mile run, earning 5 points for the Buckeyes. The junior from Huron, Ohio, crossed the finish line in 4:03.59 behind champion Ben Blankenship of Minnesota (4:01.14), runner-up Andy Bayer of Indiana (4:01.96), and Iowa sophomore Jeff Thode (4:02.00).

Weight Throw
Fourth place and 5 points went Mays at 20.51m (67-3.50). Minnesota’s Micah Hegerle won the conference title with a 21.30m (69-10.75) heave.

Heptathlon
Heath Nickles earned a single point for the Buckeyes with an eighth-place score of 5127 – the sophomore’s top performance came in the pole vault, where he cleared 4.70m (15-5) for fourth-place. Japheth Cato finished in first place with 5742 points.

Final Team Rankings
1) Minnesota – 117.33 points
2) Indiana – 104.50
3) Wisconsin – 96
4) Iowa – 88
5) Ohio State – 86
6) Penn State – 62.66
7) Illinois – 57
8) Michigan State – 36
9) Michigan – 28.50
10) Purdue – 26