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COLUMBUS, Ohio – No. 22 Ohio State travels to Champaign, Ill., this weekend for the 2011 Big Ten Indoor Championships, looking to capture its first team title in 18 years.

Championship Basics
Days: Saturday, Feb. 26 (11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. ET) and Sunday, Feb. 27 (11:00 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. ET)
Venue: University of Illinois Armory – Champaign, Ill. 
Television: The Big Ten Network will televise the championships on a tape-delayed basis, airing Saturday, March 12 at 4 p.m. ET.
Live Stats: www.fightingillini.com or www.bigten.org.

Top Buckeyes
Thomas Murdaugh – A two-time All-American and five-time Big Ten champion, Murdaugh has developed into one of the country’s top sprinters in his two years as a Buckeye. As a sophomore in 2010, the Dublin, Ohio, native was named the 2010 Great Lakes Track Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) for both the indoor and outdoor seasons, as well as 2010 Big Ten Athlete of the Year and Athlete of the Conference Championships during the indoor season. He is the 2010 Big Ten indoor champion in the 400m and the anchor of OSU’s four-time defending Big Ten champion 4x400m relay team.

Matt DeChant – DeChant is a two-time All-American in the shot put having finished in the Top 10 at both the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships in 2010. One of the top overall throwers in the Big Ten, DeChant has collected a total of six Top 10 finishes at the conference championships in his two years with the Buckeyes. This season, DeChant has been on a roll, setting new PRs in both the shot put (19.82m/65-0.25) and weight throw (20.51m/67-3.50) – both distances are currently among the Top 10 in Division I.

Michael Hartfield – Hartfield, a three time junior college All-American, was the 2010 NJCAA long jump champion at Rend Lake College. In his first Division I season, Hartfield has burst on to the national stage, setting PRs in both the long jump (7.79m/25-6.75) and triple jump (15.80m/51-10)  this season – the Manchester, Conn., native should be a major contender in both events.

Cory Leslie – Leslie has enjoyed a strong winter campaign for the Buckeyes, posting PRs in the 800m, mile and 3000m over the past two months. The Ohio State school indoor record holder in both the 1000m and mile, Leslie set the mile record with a first-place time of 3:57.97 at the Penn State National Invitational in January, the seventh-fastest time in the nation this season.

Scouting the Big Ten’s Best
No. 3 Indiana – The Big Ten’s top-ranked squad is strong in all areas. Three-time national champion Derek Drouin leads the Hoosiers in the field, while All-Americans Andy Bayer, Andrew Poor and Ben Bauer highlight a deep distance squad. In addition, junior All-American Kind Butler is one of the Midwest’s top sprinters, holding Top 20 times nationally in both the 60m and 200m dashes.

No. 10 Penn State – PSU is led by a freshman-senior combo in newcomer Brady Gehret and veteran Ryan Foster. Gehret leads the conference and is fifth-nationally in the 400m, while All-American Foster is one of the nation’s top middle-distance runners and a top contender in both the mile and 800m. The Nittany Lions also boast a talented pair of shot putters in seniors Blake Eaton and Joe Kovacs. Eaton is the defending Big Ten outdoor champion and a two-time All-American in the shot – both seniors are ranked among the Top 10 in the country this season. 

No. 15 Iowa – The Hawkeyes have been a big surprise in the Big Ten this season, thanks in large part to the effort of their sprinters. Junior Justin Austin is strong in both the 60m and 200m dashes, while Steven Willey is one of the top threats to Murdaugh in the 400m. Willey is also a member of the Hawkeyes’ impressive 4x400m relay squad, ranked sixth nationally.

No. 16 Wisconsin – The Badgers have dominated the Big Ten for the past decade, winning eighth indoor titles in the past 11 years. UW has long been known for its outstanding distance program – sophomores Maverick Darling and Ahmed Mohammed are the leaders of another deep squad that will challenge for the title in almost every distance event. Darling and Mohammed both hold Top 10 times nationally in the 5000m, with Darling also posting at Top 10 performance in the 3000m.

No. 20 Minnesota – The three-time defending Big Ten champions remain a viable threat to win a fourth straight title. The Gophers are always strong in the heptathlon and once again feature a pair of Top 20 heptathletes in seniors Joey Schwecke and Brock Spandl, a 2010 All-American in the heptathlon. All-American Ben Blankenship is strong in the distance events for UM and currently holds the ninth-best time in the nation in the 3000m. In the field, the Gophers are led by the Big Ten’s top weight thrower, Micah Hegerle, and three-time Big Ten pole vault champion Ben Peterson.

Key Events
400m Dash – Murdaugh, Gehret and Willey will battle for the top spot in the 400m. Gehret currently holds the fastest time in the Big Ten this season (46.25) and the fifth-best in Division I. Willey and Murdaugh split the conference titles in 2010, with Willey winning outdoors and Murdaugh capturing a win at the indoor meet.

Mile – Leslie, Bayer, Foster, and Huber are all legitimate threats in the mile. Bayer owns the top time in the conference, followed by Leslie, Foster and Huber, in that order. All four athletes are among the Top 20 in the mile this indoor season.

Long/Triple Jumps – Led by Hartfield, the Buckeyes are loaded in the horizontal jumps, claiming four of the conference’s Top 10 times in the long jump and three of the Top 10 in the triple. If the Buckeye jumpers live up to their billing, the Scarlet and Gray have the potential to score major points in both events.

Shot Put/Weight Throw – DeChant leads the Big Ten in the shot put and is fourth-best in the weight throw. In addition to DeChant, the Buckeyes feature the Big Ten’s No. 2 weight thrower in Max Mays and a tremendous amount of talent in fellow hurlers Tyler Branch, Billy Gehring, and Thomas Davis. Like the horizontal jumpers, the Buckeye throwers could have the ability to produce big numbers for the Scarlet and Gray this weekend.

4x400m Relay – The Buckeyes are the four-time defending conference champion but are only ranked fourth in the conference to this point in the season. Iowa holds the fastest time in the Big Ten and the sixth-best nationally, followed by Wisconsin and Penn State. The Top 4 in the Big Ten are also among the Top 25 nationally.

Buckeye History at the Big Ten Indoor Championships
Ohio State has won five Big Ten indoor championships and 120 individual/event titles since joining the Big Ten Conference in 1913, the last team title coming in 1993 under Russ Rogers.

Rogers led the track and field program to new heights in the early 90s as the Buckeyes claimed seven Top 4 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 team 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 22.35m toss. Tom Byers has a retired championship record in the 1000 yard run, which he set on an eight-lap, unbanked track in 1974.

Current Buckeye Thomas Murdaugh earned the Big Ten Athlete of the Championships award last season after setting the Minnesota Field House record with his first-place finish in the 400m dash. The All-American also anchored the 4x400m relay team to its third-consecutive championship.

Scarlet and Gray Check-in at No. 22 in USTFCCCA Top 25, Third in Regional Poll
Ohio State fell one spot to No. 22 in the Feb. 22 edition of the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) Top 25 poll.

Six Big Ten teams are featured in the Top 25, with No. 3 Indiana leading the way, followed by No. 10 Penn State, No. 15 Iowa, No. 16 Wisconsin, No. 20 Minnesota and the Buckeyes. Florida is the top-ranked team in the nation, followed by No. 2 LSU and the Hoosiers, while future Big Ten member Nebraska checks-in at No. 13 in the poll.

Regionally, the Buckeyes find themselves third in the Great Lakes behind Indiana and Wisconsin. Akron checks in at No. 4, with Michigan State at No. 5.

OSU Well Represented in Individual Top 25 Rankings
Eight members of the men’s track and field team find themselves ranked within the Top 25 in several event areas nationally. A look at where the Buckeyes sit:

Matt DeChant – No. 2 in the shot put and No. 14 in the weight throw
Cory Leslie – No. 7 in the mile
Max Mays – No. 10 in the weight throw
Michael Hartfield – No. 12 in the long jump and No. 13 in the triple jump
Thomas Murdaugh – No. 13 in the 400m, No. 21 in the 4x400m relay
Jared Hall – No. 21 in the 4x400m relay
Demoye Bogle – No. 21 in the 4x400m relay
Korbin Smith – No. 21 in the 4x400m relay

Gary Named Assistant for Team USA at IAFF World Championships
Ohio State track and field and cross country head coach Robert Gary will represent the Buckeyes as an assistant coach for Team USA at the 2011 IAAF World Outdoor Track and Field Championships, August 27 to September 4, in Daegu, South Korea, USA Track and Field announced last month.

Gary, in his fifth season as the track and field head coach and 14th leading the cross country team at Ohio State, will mentor the American distance runners under the direction of USA head coach Vin Lananna, Director of Track and Field at the University of Oregon.

In addition to his duties with Team USA at the track and field championships, Gary will also direct the American junior squad at the 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships March 20 in Punta Umbria, Spain. Gary has previous experience as an assistant at the junior level, having served on the U.S. staff at the 2010 World Junior Track and Field Championships in Mochton, Canada — that experience will serve him well, as he looks to improve an American squad that finished in eighth-place as a team at the 2010 championships.

Former Buckeye Brian Olinger Qualifies for U.S. National Team
Former Ohio State track and field and cross country standout Brian Olinger finished sixth at the 2011 USA Cross Country Championships in San Diego Feb. 5, earning the former All-American his first appearance with the U.S. national team.

Olinger, a five-time All-American and Big Ten champion as a member of the track and field and cross country programs from 2002-2006, ran a 12k time of 36:05 to secure his spot on the Team USA roster for this March’s IAAF world championships in Punta Umbria, Spain. 

“Our program is very proud that Brian has stuck with the support [at Ohio State] and achieved this level of excellence,” Ohio State head coach Robert Gary said of the former Buckeye All-America’s accomplishment. “He is a model for our team and a great representative of Buckeye Nation. We know that he will represent us well.”

Buckeyes Rack Up 565 Hours of Community Service for Fall Quarter
The Ohio State men’s track and team was hard at work off the track in the Greater Columbus area this past fall, contributing 536 total hours of community service to local organizations and charities.

All 56 team members completed at least 8 hours of volunteer work during fall quarter, with 18 student-athletes contributing 12 or more hours to local communities. Of special mention is the work done by junior Taylor Williams, who completed over 20 hours as a volunteer tutor.

Participating organizations included:

  • Second and Seven
  • Operation Buckeye
  • Life Care Alliance
  • Mid-Ohio Food Bank
  • Lima Food Bank
  • City Life Center
  • Various mentoring programs

In addition, the team continued its volunteer efforts for the third-consecutive year with Fifth Avenue Elementary, where Buckeye student-athletes serve as mentors.

Join the Olympian Club!
A 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 Ohio State 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 more information, visit the men’s track and field home page at www.OhioStateBuckeyes.com.  

Follow the Buckeyes on Facebook!
The Ohio State men’s track and field team is now on Facebook. Visit www.facebook.com/OSUtrackXC to catch up on the latest Buckeye news and notes.
     
Head coach Robert Gary
Robert Gary, now in his fifth season as the head men’s track and field coach and 15th coaching the cross country team, has elevated both programs to new heights and has established himself as one of the nation’s elite coaches.

Gary’s teams constantly strive for Top 3 finishes at the Big Ten championships in cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field. And for the second time in three years, the Buckeyes did just that during the 2009-10 campaign. Gary led the cross country team to a second-place finish at the Big Ten championships as Jeff See took third overall among individuals. The Buckeyes went onto place third at the NCAA regionals before taking 21st at the NCAA championships behind See’s All-America finish. On the track, Gary led the Buckeyes to a second-place finish at the Big Ten indoor championships and a third-place showing during the outdoor season. See (mile/1500m) and Matt DeChant (shot put) earned All-America honors during the indoor and outdoor seasons while Thomas Murdaugh earned All-America honors in the 400m during the indoor. In addition, the Buckeyes swept their rival Michigan in “The Dual” by winning both indoor and outdoor meets.

Coach Gary continues to train the best each year for the USA Track and Field championships and Olympic trials. In June 2010, he helped train Dan Huling, who took first place in the 3000m steeplechase at the 2010 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. In addition, Huling, along with former Buckeye greats Rob Myers (1500m), Brian Olinger (steeplechase) and See (1500m) trained under Gary while preparing for the 2008 Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore.

Gary ended a decorated running career in 2005. A two time member of Team USA at the 1996 and 2004 Olympics, Gary placed second in the men’s steeplechase at the 1996 Olympic Trials with a career-best time of 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 Games.  Gary also earned honors as a cross country athlete, competing on a total of 11 U.S. national teams.

As a student-athlete at Ohio State from 1992-1995, Gary was a six-event All-American, winning the Big Ten outdoor 3000m steeplechase 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 championship teams (1992 outdoor, 1993 indoor and outdoor).

A 2009 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
Matt DeChant and the Ohio State throwers represented the men’s track and field team Saturday afternoon at the Rick Meindl Last Call, hosted by Capital University.

The junior All-American was the star of the meet for the Buckeyes, capturing a pair of wins and Capital Center facility records in the weight throw and shot put. DeChant set a new personal record in the weight with a 20.51m (67-3.50) heave, a Top 15 distance nationally, and backed that performance up with a first-place toss of 18.83m (61-9.50) in the shot.

Four teammates joined DeChant in helping the Scarlet and Gray sweep the Top 5 spots in the weight throw. Second-place went to Max Mays at 19.47m (63-10.50), followed by Billy Gehring (19.19m/62-11.50), Tyler Branch (18.93m/62-1.25) and Thomas Davis (18.86m/61-10.50). Branch and Davis turned-in PRs to go along with their Top 5 finishers.

In the shot put, Branch took runner-up behind DeChant with a toss of 17.14m (56-3), while Jared Collier finished fifth thanks to a 15.36m (50-4.75) throw.

Up Next
Several Buckeyes will compete at the Alex Wilson Invitational in South Bend, Ind., March 4-5, the “Last Chance” for athletes to qualify for the following week’s NCAA championship meet.