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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State women’s track and field team opens the 2010 season Saturday, Jan. 7 when it plays host to several in-state foes at the Buckeye Classic.

Newly-renovated French Field House plays host to the Buckeyes and rivals Dayton, Ohio, Wright State and Findlay. Competition begins at approximately 10:00 a.m. ET Saturday with action in the weight throw. Live stats will be available through FinishTiming at www.FinishTiming.com. A complete recap will be provided after the meet at www.OhioStateBuckeyes.com.  

A brief look at the 2010 Buckeyes:

Top Returners
Letecia Wright – One of the top young hurdlers in the Midwest, Wright returns for her junior season after an impressive 2009. The Baltimore, Md. native burst on to the national stage last season with a 16th-place finish in the 100m hurdles at the NCAA championships and a second-place finish in the same event at the Big Ten finals.

Jordan Jennewine – Jennewine enjoyed a breakout season as a sophomore, breaking the school record in the 1500m and setting the third-best time in OSU history in the 1500m. She continued to make strides during the fall cross country season, earning all-Big Ten and all-Regional honors as the Buckeyes competed at the NCAA championships for the first time.

Maggie Mullen – The sophomore from Ontario, Canada made her mark in the OSU record books as a freshman, breaking the school record in the javelin, while holding the top team marks in the shot put, discus and hammer throw. A year removed from a fourth-place finish in the javelin at the Big Ten championships and an appearance in at the Mideast regionals, Mullen is looking for even bigger things in 2010.

Ashley Caldwell – Caldwell brings experience on the big stage to the Buckeyes, having competed in two national championships as a member of the 4x400m relay team. The senior from Indianapolis, Ind. took home All-American honors after a sixth-place finish with the 4x400m team at the NCAA championships in 2008 and followed that up with an 11th-place finish in 2009. Individually, she is one of Ohio State’s top runners in the 400m and 600m dashes. 

Key Newcomers
Nyjah Cousar – One of California’s top sprinter/hurdlers in the 2010 class, Cousar recorded three Top 10 finishes at the 2009 California state championships – she should make an immediate impact on a young Buckeye squad.

Christienne Linton – An outstanding hurdler and jumper, Linton won the 100m hurdles, 300m hurdles and long jump at the 2009 Midwest Meet of Champions and also took home titles in the long jump and 300m hurdles at the USATF youth nationals. A Michigan native, Linton was the 2009 state champion in the long jump and 300m IH and runner-up in 100m IH.

Skyler Wallen – Hailing from Florida powerhouse Miami Northwestern, Wallen won the 2009 state title in the 800m and was a member of Northwestern’s state champion 4x800m relay team in 2009 and the runner-up squad in 2008. The Miami native is considered by many to be the top incoming freshmen in the 800m nationally.

French Field House Upgrades
Saturday’s meet at French Field House will be the first indoor meet hosted at Ohio State in over three years. The 54-year old facility is fresh-off a $1.3 million renovation project that was completed in October, aimed at making the meet day experience for both fans and athletes better.  Renovations include:

  • An all-new 200-meter state-of-the-art track and indoor field competition surface
  • Brand new bleachers along the south side with a capacity of 800
  • New long jump/triple jump pits
  • Permanent throws area
  • Re-painting of interior roof, steel beams and walls

French Field House was first completed in 1956 at a cost of just over $1 million. The facility is used primarily for the track and field teams, but is also used as a practice and multi-purpose facility for other sports and special events.

Leon Pullen Added to Coaching Staff
Dayton, Ohio native Leon Pullen joined the Ohio State coaching staff in early Nov. after three seasons as an assistant at Eastern Kentucky. As a volunteer assistant coach, Pullen will help oversee the sprint and hurdle at Ohio State.

A 1996 graduate of Eastern Kentucky, Pullen was a four-year letterman who his name into the EKU record books in the 400m dash and 4x400m relay.

Head Coach Karen Dennis
Karen Dennis was hired as Ohio State’s first women’s head coach since 1993 in July of 2005. Prior to taking over the OSU women’s helm, Dennis spent four seasons as a sprints and hurdles assistant for both the Buckeye men’s and women’s programs. The Detroit, Mich. native and Michigan State grad returned to the Midwest in 2003 following a 10-year stretch (1992-2002) as head coach at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas and after serving as the head coach of the United States women’s national team at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.

The women’s track and cross country programs have witnessed steady improvement since Dennis took over the reins in 2005. The 2009 saw a young roster for both the track and cross country, and each side improved significantly throughout their respective seasons. Sarah Foster, Emily Thompson and Jordan Jennewine led the Buckeyes o a one-spot improvement at the Big Ten Championships, while the track team hit its stride late in the season, qualifying five individuals for the NCAA championships in Fayetteville, Ark. Under the direction of Dennis, Letecia Wright finished 16th in the 100m finals, while Latoya Sanderson, Ashley Caldwell, Ayrizanna Favours and Shaniqua McGinnis claimed 11th in the 4x400m relay. The 4x400m squad also claimed the team’s only Big Ten title at league’s 2009 outdoor finals.

Prior to UNLV, Dennis served as the head coach of the Michigan State University track and field program for 11 seasons, where she guided the Spartans to a 1982 Big Ten Outdoor Championship as she was named District IV Coach of the Year. The Spartans thrived under her direction as she produced a number of outstanding athletes. Judi Brown-King won the silver medal in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Cheryl Gilliam was a 12-time Big Ten champion. Odessa Smalls won 13 Big Ten titles and earned All-America honors three times. In addition, Dennis coached a Big Ten champ in the 10,000 meters, two-time All-American Mary Shea.

In 1992, Dennis took over the UNLV cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field teams after 11 seasons at Michigan State. While in Las Vegas, Dennis guided 12 different student-athletes to All-American status. She also coached former distance standout Katie Barto to the NCAA championships in 2002, All-American status and NCAA Woman of the Year honors for the state of Nevada. That same season, Dennis guided Michelle Davis, a six-time All-American, to the 2002 UNLV Sportswoman of the Year Award.

Dennis has been involved on the national and international track and field scenes for quite some time. She served as the assistant coach of the 1995 World Championships squad in Goteborg, Sweden. She also coached the U.S. women’s team at the 1991 Pan American Games in Havana, Cuba and served as an assistant women’s coach at the World University Championships in Duisburg, Germany, in 1989.

Up Next
The Buckeyes will compete Jan. 15-16 at the Kentucky Invitational in Lexington, Ky.