Courtesy of the Ohio State Athletic Department
Conference championships will be on the line in Madison, Wis., where the Ohio State men’s and women’s track and field teams will begin competition Friday in the 2012 Big Ten Outdoor Championships.
The OSU women won the Big Ten Championship at last year’s meet, and are seeking to defend their title. Coach Karen Dennis said she expects her team to do so.
“We expect to win,” Dennis said. “We are committed, we’re prepared and we’re excited. We’re ready to go.”
Senior multi-event athlete Ashley Galbraith and senior jumper Kelcey McKinney, who won the triple jump at last year’s meet, shared their coach’s confidence.
“Our team altogether is so prepared for this meet that nothing should go wrong,” Galbraith said.
McKinney shared Galbraith’s attitude.
“I think we can all agree that we’re not going to leave Wisconsin with anything less than a Big Ten championship,” McKinney said.
Senior sprinter Christina Manning goes into the meet with three individual titles of her own to defend. In 2011, Manning won the Big Ten outdoor titles in the 100-meter hurdles, 100-meter dash and 4×100-meter relay. This year, Manning is ranked in the top 25 nationally in all three events, which includes her No. 1 national ranking in the 100m hurdles, which she achieved with a school-record setting time of 12.68 seconds at the Jim Click Shootout on March 31.
Manning said she hopes to leave her final Big Ten championship meet with a team title.
“I would love to go out as a senior and have this victory,” Manning said.
Two other seniors sprinters, Madison McNary and Shaniqua McGinnis, will be defending their respective titles in the 200-meter dash and the 400-meter dash from last year’s meet.
While the women are confident, they also acknowledged that the competition will be tough.
Manning and Galbraith both said Nebraska will “definitely” be their toughest competition. Dennis agreed and said the competition will be fierce.
“It’s going to be a dogfight,” Dennis said. “It’s just going to be a real challenge and a dogfight for every single point.”
On the men’s side, the Buckeyes are looking to improve upon their third-place finish behind Iowa and Minnesota in last season’s meet. Interim head coach Ed Beathea listed Nebraska, Wisconsin and Indiana as the three teams who he expects to be OSU’s toughest competition this time around, but thinks that his team is prepared for the competition.
“I think that we’re probably about where we want to be going into this weekend,” Beathea said.
Korbin Smith, a junior who won the individual Big Ten outdoor title in long jump as a freshman and was on the winning 4×400-meter relay team last year, agreed with his coach.
“I think we’re really prepared,” Smith said.
The 4×400 team will not be the only OSU men attempting title defenses. Senior sprinter Thomas Murdaugh in the 400-meter dash, redshirt junior Heath Nickles in the decathlon, sophomore Cody Marshall in the pole vault and senior jumper Michael Hartfield in the long jump were all conference champions last year.
Another important contributor for the Buckeyes in their quest for a conference title will be redshirt junior distance runner Cory Leslie. He is ranked third nationally in both the 1,500-meter run and 3,000-meter steeplechase. Beathea cited both events as being very important for the Buckeyes’ title hopes this weekend.
The men’s throwing contingent also expects to make an impact on the meet. Redshirt senior Matt DeChant is ranked 10th nationally in the shot put, with a best throw of 19.34 meters this outdoor season. Max Mays, also a redshirt senior thrower, spoke about his expectations for the meet.
“As a team, we expect to win, that’s how we always are,” Mays said. “For myself, I expect to win. I’ve gotten second a couple times … that’s just not good enough. I think DeChant in the shot put feels the exact same way as me. I won’t be satisfied with anything less than first place.”
The Big Ten Outdoor Championships begin Friday and continue on Saturday and Sunday.