Spartan track and field is heading to Indiana to show the Big Ten the progress they have made in the short months, since the conference last convened in early March.
After an arguably more successful, but scattered, outdoor season than indoor season, the team is looking to fill the gaps they left open and have since filled since the Indoor Championship.
Most notable additions to the Spartans’ scoring abilities have been the sprinting group, who have been able to regain their confidence and maturity in the outdoor season. The women relay teams have seen their best times since last year and have clocked in top performances at all of the meets they have raced at. Jellissa Westney and Alicia Evans look to be top competitors in the 100 and 200 and Lauren Rose in the hurdles.
These are events that MSU did not compete in at the Indoor Championship and therefore did not gain any points from.
“I think we’ve seen momentum out of most places. My aggravation is probably on the fact that there were people at the conference meet who were qualified and ready to score who just didn’t have the confidence,” MSU head coach Walt Drenth said. “We’ve seen a great amount of maturity out of those people since then and we’ll definitely see people score who weren’t even close to scoring at the indoor conference meet.”
Tori Franklin is someone who is looking back on the last conference meet as an inspiration winning the women’s triple jump event and competing in two other sprinting events.
“I got injured at the end of indoor. I’ve been slowly getting my way back up to where I was so it’s been a little frustrating,” Franklin said. “I’ve learned the art of patience, which is better to have then push yourself too hard.”
Antonio James, the team’s top thrower, is going into the weekend with a sprained ankle from practice. But despite a foot in a boot, he is excited for the tougher competition coming his way.
“This year’s outdoor season, the throws have been the deepest in NCAA history so it’s going to be tough to compete,” James said. “The distance is going to have to be there if you want to get to regionals and engage in this week’s competition.”
On both the men’s and women’s side, Nebraska will be the team to beat, with Penn State and Wisconsin also creating tension for the Spartans.
“I think the conference is wide open,” Drenth said “If our sprints show up, we have a couple people in the relays, the triple jump, the 5,000 meters, we’re good in steeplechase and 1,500 meters. Those events are critical for our success. If we can hit big in those events, we’ll set ourselves up for a good position in the conference.”
Hosted by Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., the events will begin Friday, May 16 and conclude on Sunday, May 18.
Alexa McCarthy is the host of Last Leg for Impact Sports.
Photo: Alexa McCarthy/Impact Sports