MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. –  The 20th-ranked Ohio State men’s track and field team finished in second-place Sunday at the 2010 Big Ten Championships, the team’s highest indoor finish since the 1996 season.

Head coach Robert Gary and the Buckeyes put together an outstanding two day performance at University Fieldhouse, capturing four individual Big Ten titles on their way to a total team score of 112.50. However, it was not enough to overcome home-standing and 17th-ranked Minnesota, as the Golden Gophers’ 160.50 points helped them separate themselves from the rest of the league.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say we were hoping to be in the hunt to win,” Ohio State head coach Robert Gary said after the meet. “Minnesota just had a very good weekend at home, with a lot of positive results. I’m still very pleased with the effort from our guys.”

Ohio State defended its 2009 indoor and outdoor titles in the 4x400m – Thomas Murdaugh, Elon Simms, Brandon Woodard and Stephen Robinson brought the win home to Columbus with an NCAA provisional run of 3:11.18, a University Fieldhouse record. Iowa was second in an NCAA provisional time of 3:12.00.

The Buckeyes swept the Top 3 spots in the 200m dash, led by senior Stephen Robinson, who won his first Big Ten title with an NCAA provisional time of 21.57. Thomas Murdaugh finished in second-place in 21.70 and Curtis Leuenberger was third in 21.76. In all, Ohio State amassed 24 points in the 200m finals.

All-American Murdaugh won his first Big Ten individual title in the 400m dash, cruising to a first-place and NCAA provisional time of 46.67, a run that bested his own University Fieldhouse record. Freshman Korbin Smith was third in a personal record time of 48.49 and Rob Baisden sixth in 48.91, as the Buckeyes totaled 19 points in the event.

A day removed from his win in the 3000m, senior All-American Jeff See finished third in the mile with a time of 4:06.39. See’s run was good for six team points, but was not enough to take down Minnesota sophomore Ben Blankenship, who won the championship in a time of 4:05.64.

Matt DeChant was fourth in the weight throw with an NCAA provisional toss of 19.64m (64-5.25), while teammate Billy Gehrig was eighth with a PR mark of 18.64m (61-2). Minnesota senior Aaron Studt was the first-place finisher at 20.35m (66-9.25).

Redshirt freshman Heath Nickles fought his way to an eighth-place finish in the heptathlon thanks to a third-place finish in the pole vault at 4.96m (16-3.25). Nickles’ total score of 5254 was a PR, but well behind Minnesota’s R.J. McGinnis, who won the title with an NCAA automatic qualifying score of 5708.

Despite the runner-up performance, Gary and the Buckeyes leave Minneapolis knowing that they are capable of even bigger things:

“In all honesty, it makes me feel good how disappointed the program is with finishing second,” Gary said. “I hope it fuels our preparations and hunger for the outdoor championships.”

Other news and notes:

  • Daniel White finished seventh in the 800m with a time of 1:53.81. Penn State’s Ryan Foster won the race with a Fieldhouse record time of 1:50.43.
  • Freshman Derek Blevins posted his second-best triple jump of the season (14.60m/47-11) to finish 10th.
  • Patrick Sovacool finished seventh in the 5000m, crossing the finish line in 14:23.28, good for two team points for Ohio State.
  • Jonathan Francois finished eighth in the 60m hurdles with a time of 8.20, securing a valuable team point.
  • Robinson earned a point for the Buckeyes with his eighth-place finish in the 60m dash (6.90).

Team Standings (Final Results)
1. Minnesota – 160.50 points
2. Ohio State – 112.50
3. Wisconsin – 81
4. Purdue – 67
5. Iowa – 56
6. No. 11 Penn State – 51
6. No. 7 Indiana – 51
8. Michigan – 42
9. Michigan State – 41
10. Illinois – 40