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Buckeyes hope to build on runner-up finish at indoors, post highest team finish in over 30 years

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State women’s track and field team travels to Bloomington Ind., this weekend (May 14-16) for the 2010 Big Ten Outdoor Championships at Indiana University.

Coming off of its highest team finish in nine seasons at this year’s indoor championships, OSU will be out to prove that it has earned its spot among the Big Ten’s elite. If the Buckeyes equal or exceed their second-place finish from the indoor season, it would mark the first Top 2 finish for the squad at the outdoor championships in more than 30 years.

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
Junior Letecia Wright and sophomore All-American Christina Manning are the leaders of the up-and-coming women’s track and field team at Ohio State.

One of the top hurdlers in the Midwest, Wright has raised her game over the past several weeks, collecting two Big Ten Athlete of the Week awards while posting a PR of 13.07 in the 100m hurdles at the Drake Relays in April.

Manning burst onto the national scene this past indoor season, capturing a Big Ten championship and All-American honors in the 60m hurdles and runner-up finishes in both the 100m and 200m dashes at the Big Ten championships. She currently holds the eighth-fastest Division I time in the 100m hurdles (13.10).

Shaniqua McGinnis won the Big Ten indoor title in the 400m dash last February and will be a threat to win a second-consecutive title. McGinnis also anchors the defending Big Ten outdoor champion 4x400m relay team.

Sophomore Maggie Mullen from Ontario, Canada made her mark in the OSU record books as a freshman, breaking the school record in the javelin, while posting the top team marks in the shot put, discus and hammer throw. Mullen showed great improvement in both the shot put and weight throw during the indoor season and has continued to make strides during the outdoor season in the discus and hammer. She broke her own school record in the javelin with a toss of 48.30m at the Raleigh Relays in March.

Scouting the Best of the Big Ten
No. 7 Penn State – The Nittany Lions field the conference’s deepest squad, featuring All-Americans Shavon Greaves, Fawn Door and Bridget Franek. Greaves holds Top 10 times nationally in the 100m and 200m dashes, while Door is almost equally imposing in the both the 400m dash and 400m hurdles. Franek is the leader of the Lion’s strong distance squad, holding Top 5 DI times in the steeplechase (No. 1, 9:54.70) and 5000m (third, 15:46.08), along with a Top 25 performance in the 1500m. 

No. 18 Illinois – Three-time national champion and Ohio native Angela Bizarri is the Illini leader, holding Top 5 times nationally in both the 1500m (eighth, 4:16.99) and 5000m (second, 15:37.21). Three-time All-American Aja Evans will be the favorite in the shot put, as she currently holds the second-best DI mark this season. The Illini’s 4x100m and 4x400m relays teams both rank among the Top 15 nationally.

No. 22 Indiana – IU features three of the top distance runners in the country in Central Ohio native Molly Beckwith, Sarah Pease and Wendi Robinson. All-American Beckwith is second nationally in the 800m run (2:02.18) and among the Top 25 in the 1500m, while A-A Pease has posted Top 15 performances in both the steeplechase (sixth, 10:05.67) and 10000m run (33:51.86). Robinson is a renowned long distance runner and one of the favorites in the 10000m run, where she is among the Top 20 athletes in Division I.

Buckeye History at the Championships
Ohio State has never won a women’s outdoor track and field title, but has enjoyed a great amount of individual success at the championships.

The Buckeyes took home back-to-back Athlete of the Championship titles in 1999 and 2000. All-American Dominique Calloway received the honor at the 1999 meet after winning the 100m hurdles and contributing to a 4x400m relay victory. Big Ten Athlete of the Year and All-American Donica Merriman followed Calloway in 2000 after winning individual titles in the 100m hurdles, 100m dash and 200m dash, while anchoring the 1st-place 4x400m relay team.

Coach Mamie Rallins guided the Buckeyes to a second-place finish at the 1979 championships, Ohio State’s best finish in school history. The Scarlet and Gray have finished in the Top 5 in 19 of the 31 women’s outdoor finals.

Recapping the 2009 Outdoor Championships
Shaniqua McGinnis ran a spirited final leg to give Ohio State the title in the 4x400m relay on the final day of the 2009 Big Ten Outdoor Championships at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium last May.

The win was OSU’s only title at the championships as the Buckeyes squeaked by Illinois at the wire with a regional qualifying time of 3:38.33. The Scarlet and Gray finished eighth overall with 45 team points, well behind champion Penn State (139 pts.).

Letecia Wright placed second in the finals of the 100m hurdles with a time of 13.43. Michigan’s Tiffany Ofili blew the field away, crossing the finish line in 13.05. Deserea Brown of Illinois took third-place in 13.53 as all nine competitors ran regional qualifying times.

Senior Ayrizanna Favours ran a season best time in the 200m dash, finishing third in 23.97. Penn State swept the Top 2 spots, with Shavon Greaves finishing first in 23.35 and Gayle Hunter second in 23.81.

Jordan Jennewine broke the school record in the 1500m run with her sixth-place run of 4:23.37, a regional-qualifying time. Michigan senior Geena Gall was first with a Big Ten season-best time of 4:15.09 and Angela Bizzari of Illinois second in 4:16.95. Jennewine ran another regional qualifying time in the 5000m, a PR of 16:39.78 and the fourth-best run in school history.

Maggie Mullen finished fourth in the javelin with a mark of 43.25m, third-best in Ohio State history. Purdue All-American Kara Patterson took the title with a Jesse Owens Stadium record throw of 57.47m.

Ohio State sophomore Alana Gray finished fifth in the heptathlon with a personal record point total of 5078, the fourth-best score in school history. Gray’s best finish was in the 200m dash, where she ran a PR of 25.44 for fourth-place. Minnesota’s Liz Roehrig led the competition from the beginning and took the title with a Big Ten season high score of 5871, a Jesse Owens Stadium record.

Buckeyes Fall to Third in USTFCCCA Great Lakes Regional Rankings
The Buckeyes fell to No. 3 in the May 11 edition of the Great Lakes Regional Track and Field rankings by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).

With 533.25 team points, the Buckeyes trail Indiana (684.44) and Wisconsin (550.13) in the region. Rounding out the Top 5 are Big Ten rivals Michigan State (447.11) and Michigan (408.53).

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, Ohio State ranks among the Top 20 teams nationally.

Top 50 Buckeyes
Four members of the Ohio State women’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:

Letecia Wright – No. 6 in the 100m hurdles
Christina Manning – No. 8 in the 100m hurdles, No. 37 in the 100m dash
Maggie Mullen – No. 27 in the javelin
Shaniqua McGinnis- No. 32 in the 400m dash

In addition, the Buckeyes’ 4x400m relay team of Latoya Sanderson, Nyjah Cousar, Ashley Caldwell and McGinnis checks in at No. 18 on the national list.

Buckeyes Ink Seven for 2010-2011
Seven talented student-athletes are set to join the Ohio State women’s track and field team for the 2010-2011 school year, head coach Karen Dennis announced March 8. A look at the newest additions to the Buckeye family:

Adenike Pedro // Sprints/Hurdles – Bladensburg, Md. – Elizabeth Seton
Pedro finished third in the long jump last season at the 2009 Nike Outdoor Track & Field Championships. As a senior, Pedro is currently ranked fifth in country in the long jump and is also one of the top rated sprinters in the country in the 55m, 100m and 200m dashes

Chesna Sykes // Sprints/Hurdles – Columbus, Ohio – Bishop Hartley
One of the top ten 100m runners in the country, Sykes is the 2009 OHSAA Division II state champion in both the 100m and 200m dashes. She placed fourth last year at the 2009 USATF World Youth Track and Field Trials and will look to make a quick impact in Columbus.

KaChay Hullum // Sprints/Hurdles – Akron, Ohio – Firestone
A versatile athlete that will be able to cover a wide range of events, Hullum is a two time OHSAA track and field championship qualifier. Ohio State will be look to use Hullum’s talents in everything from the 100m to the 600m. 

Madeline Hurdt // Throws – Boerne, Texas – Boerne
The 2009 Texas state champion in the shot put, Hurdt was also the sixth-place finisher in the discus. Named the 2008 and 2009 Boerne Field Athlete of the Year, Hurdt took home an impressive first-place finish in the shot put at the prestigious Texas Relays this past year.

Meredith Wagner // Distance – Sylvania, Ohio – Northview
Wagner won the 2009 OHSAA Division I cross country championship. She is a two time state qualifier in cross country and 2009 state track qualifier in the 3200m.

Mallory Kreider // Distance – Kingsville, Ohio – Edgewood
Kreider was the 2009 OHSAA Division II indoor and outdoor state champion in the 3200m and is a three-time state qualifier in cross country as well as track and field. 

Angela Williams // Distance – Hudson, Ohio – Hudson
A two-time OHSAA championship qualifier in cross country, Williams is also an accomplished track athlete, having qualified for competition in the 1600m at the 2009 OHSAA DI championships.

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. 2009 saw a young roster for both the track and cross country teams, 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.

Last Time Out
The Buckeyes hosted a strong and competitive field at the 25th Jesse Owens Track Classic April 30-May 1. A look at some of the meet highlights for the Scarlet and Gray:

Ohio State swept the Top 2 spots in the finals of the 100m hurdles, with sophomore All-American Christina Manning edging teammate Letecia Wright at the finish line. Manning’s winning time of 13.10 is the eighth-fastest Division I time and the second-best in the Big Ten this season, while Wright’s 13.15 second sprint is also a Top 15 national time.

Manning, Wright, Shaniqua McGinnis and Latoya Sanderson combined for a first-place finish in the 4x100m, crossing the finish line in a season-best time of 45.53, fourth-best in the Big Ten this season. Big Ten rivals Michigan State (45.71) and Penn State (45.90) finished second and third, respectively.

Penn State, Mississippi State and Ohio State battled for the 4x400m relay title, with Penn State, thanks to a strong third leg, emerging on top. However, the Nittany Lions were disqualified due to a faulty handoff that impeded the Southern Illinois squad on the second/third leg exchange. Based on the DQ, Mississippi State claimed first-place in a time of 3:37.24. The Buckeyes, who led for the first 800 meters of the race, settled for second in 3:41.45.

Shavon Greaves of Penn State and Manning, the Big Ten indoor champion and runner-up in the 100m, dueled for the JOTC event title Saturday, with Greaves getting the best of the OSU sophomore. PSU’s All-American used a time 11.37, a Top 25 DI performance, to take the title, while Manning ran a season-best time of 11.54 for second, the third-best sprint in the Big Ten this season.

Ohio State senior Katie Williams won the 5000m run in a time of 17:07.98, with Ohio University’s Kari Summers (17:18.53) and Annie Beecham (17:19.40) finishing second and third, respectively.

The javelin throw witnessed a Big Ten battle for the title, with Penn State’s Karlee McQuillen (47.79m/156-09) edging Ohio State sophomore Maggie Mullen (47.75m/156-08) for first-place. McQuillen’s meet record toss is the third-best in the Big Ten this season, while the mark by Mullen is fourth.

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