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Manning earns trio of awards, 2 in Big Ten

Junior sprinter and hurdler Christina Manning continues to collect awards this season after helping to lead the Ohio State women’s track and field team to its first ever Big Ten title.

She won both the Big Ten Indoor Track Athlete of the Year and Big Ten Athlete of the Indoor Championships honors, and added a third award Monday. The U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association awarded Manning the Great Lakes Regional Track Athlete of the Year award.

Coach Karen Dennis, who also was named by the USTFCCCA the Great Lakes Coach of the Year on Monday, said she was unsure if Manning would make it at OSU at first. Manning had a hard time adjusting to Division I training.

The All-American has committed herself to the program, though, and it has paid off. She won the conference title in the 60-meter hurdles and had runner-up finishes in the 60- and 200-meter dashes.

“I remember her first year I really wondered if this was the program for her,” Dennis said. “I’m delighted that she committed to returning, and returning as the quality athlete I thought I recruited.”

Manning, who attended Westlake High School in Waldorf, Md., said she realized she had to grow up if she would make it at OSU.

“I felt like I had to be more mature,” Manning said. “In high school, track wasn’t that much of a serious sport. We barely trained in practice. … It was more like a social thing.”

Manning joins former NCAA champion Donica Merriman as the only Buckeyes to win Athlete of the Year honors for women’s track and field. She is the third Buckeye to win the Athlete of the Championships recognition along with Merriman and Bridgette Tate.

“I’m really glad to see she’s grown because it’s a shame to have a talented athlete that’s a person that’s not committed to doing the quality of work that’s needed to bring out the best of their talent,” Dennis said.

Manning said she hopes to continue to train after college and reach higher levels of competition.

“In everything I do, I wanna be the best at it,” Manning said. “I have to build up. I know it’s like starting over, but I feel like I could get to a point where I could be a great athlete after college.”

Dennis said she is thrilled at the successes of the team this year but that her biggest thrill is seeing the type of athlete Manning has become.

“My role as a coach is to find the sparkle, the diamond that’s inside each of these women, and polish it so they can shine,” Dennis said. “I think that each year Christina gets closer to developing into what I call an elite and a national-caliber athlete.”

Manning and several teammates will compete at the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships in College Station, Texas, on Friday and Saturday.

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