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COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio State women’s track and field team heads east to Penn State for the 2010 Big Ten Indoor Championships, looking for an improved showing on the conference’s biggest stage.

Championship Basics
Days: Saturday, Feb. 27 (11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.) and Sunday, Feb. 28 (11:00 a.m. – 3:50 p.m.)
Venue: Horace Ashenfelter III Indoor Track – University Park, Pa.
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 7 p.m. ET.
Live Stats: www.gopsusports.com or www.bigten.org

The Ohio State Buckeyes
A talented pair of sprinter/hurdlers – junior Letecia Wright and sophomore Christina Manning – has led the Buckeyes for the majority of the indoor campaign.

One of the top young hurdlers in the Midwest, Wright has enjoyed a solid indoor season despite several nagging injuries. The defending Big Ten Track Athlete of the Week holds the eighth-best time nationally in the 60m hurdles and is a rising star in the 60m dash.

Manning has burst onto the scene this season, posting a 60m hurdle provisional time and personal records in the 60m and 200m dashes. Manning has also anchored the Buckeye 4x400m team to several impressive times.

First-year senior Katie Williams has been a welcome addition to the Buckeye squad. Williams is the Ohio State indoor record holder in the 1000m, and is the team leader in the 800m and mile as well.

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 holding the top team marks in the shot put, discus and hammer throw. Mullen has shown great improvement in both the shot put and weight throw during the indoor season, setting PRs in both events.

Scouting the Best of the Big Ten
No. 10 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 60m, 200m and 400m dashes, while Door is almost equally imposing in the 200 and 400m. Franek is the leader of the Lion’s strong distance squad, holding Top 15 DI times in the 3000m and 5000m. 

No. 19 Indiana – IU features two of the top distance runners in the country, Ohio native Molly Beckwith and Wendi Robinson. Beckwith – a Top 15 athlete in the mile and 800m – took home three medals at last season’s Big Ten indoor meet, while Robinson is a renowned 3000m and 5000m competitor. Faith Sherrill is a threat in both the weight throw and shot put, posting Top 15 DI marks in 2010. 

No. 30 Minnesota – Alicia Rue and Nicki Swenson are the leaders for the defending champion Golden Gophers. Three-time All-American Rue is the defending NCAA indoor runner-up and a two-time Big Ten champion, while Swenson is one of the nation’s top middle distance runners.

Buckeye History at the Big Ten Championships
The Ohio State women have never taken home an indoor title in the 31 seasons the Big Ten has held a women’s indoor championship. However, Ohio State has placed in the Top 5 18 times and has more than 50 individual titles.

Three Buckeye women have taken home the Athlete of the Championship award. Donica Merriman – one of only two OSU athletes to claim national titles – grabbed the honor in both 2000 and 2001 after winning the 60m hurdles and 200m dash each season. Her blazing time of 7.98 in the 60m hurdles in 2001 is still a championship record. Bridgette Tate received the honor in 1988 after her first-place finishes in the 55m dash, 55m hurdles and 300 yard run.
 
Two Ohio State indoor records have been retired, Diane Dixon’s 300-yard run in 1983 and Tate’s 60-yard sprint in 1987.

Wright Named Big Ten Athlete of the Week
The Big Ten Conference announced on Feb. 22 the seventh weekly women’s indoor track and field awards for meets through Feb. 15-21. Ohio State’s Letecia Wright received the nod for Track Athlete of the Week – the first for the Buckeyes this season – based on her efforts in the final tune up before the Big Ten championships.

Wright posted two personal records and first-place finishes last Friday at the Buckeye Tune-up. Her top performance came in the 60-meter hurdles, where she blew away the field with a time of 8.23, the eighth-best in the NCAA this season and fastest in the Big Ten. The Baltimore, Md., native followed that performance with a 7.52 sprint in the 60-meter dash, the fourth-best in the conference this season.

The selection marks the first Indoor Track Athlete of the Week award for Wright’s career. She is the first Ohio State sprinter to receive the honor since Ayrizanna Favours in Feb. 2007.

Ohio State Remains Third in Great Lakes Regional Rankings
With a total of 240.20 points, Ohio State remained to No. 3 in the Feb. 23 edition of the Great Lakes regional rankings by the United States Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).

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.

Indiana is once again the top-ranked team in the Great Lakes with 328.43 points, followed by No. 2 Michigan (272.69), Ohio State, Wisconsin and Indiana State.

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.

Last Time Out
It was a record-setting day for the Ohio State women’s track and field team Feb. 19 at the Buckeye Tune-up.

Led by two first-place finishes and personal records from junior Letecia Wright, the Buckeyes put on an entertaining display for the hometown crowd at French Field House heading into next weekend’s trip to the Big Ten indoor championships.

While Wright was by far the star of the day for the Scarlet and Gray, several of her teammates also put together impressive individual efforts.

Wright wasn’t the only record setter for the Buckeyes Friday – for the second time this season, the Ohio State 1000m indoor record fell. Senior Katie Williams broke the school 1000m indoor record with her first-place time of 2:52.56.

The French Field House record would fall in the 600m – senior Ashley Caldwell used a first-place time of 1:31.00 to best the previous record of 1:31.96, set in 1999 by Adrianna Hunter of Michigan. Jewelisa Thompson ran a time of 1:38.37 to finish in second for OSU.

Christina Manning – the other Baltimore Buckeye – was the second-place finisher in both the 60m hurdle and dash. Her time of 8.40 in the hurdles was an NCAA provisional run, and her 7.53 run in the dash tied a PR.

Maggie Mullen won the weight throw with a first-place toss of 18.19m (59-8.25), the eighth-best in the Big Ten this season. Freshman Alexis Thomas took second with a season-best mark of 16.81m (55-2).

Mullen followed up her effort in the weight with a fourth-place finish in the shot put at 13.74m (45-1). Norianna Brown took the title at 14.23m (46-8.25).

Crossing the finish line in time of 24.92, sophomore Shaniqua McGinnis claimed first-place in the 200m dash. Wright State’s Michelle Izel was second in 26.15, while Ayana Ball – competing unattached – finished third with a sprint of 26.42.

Up Next
The Buckeye will compete at a Last Chance meet next weekend, date and site to be determined.