The school year may be quickly coming to a close, but Michigan State track and field athletes are just getting started.
For the third weekend in a row, the team will be splitting up competition in three different locations. The Spartans will be represented at the Drake Relays (Des Moines, Iowa), the GINA Relays (Hillsdale, Mich.) and Ashland University Alumni Open (Ashland, Ohio). Each location was picked specifically for certain events, in an effort to find the best competition in preparation for the Big Ten Outdoor Championship taking place May 16-18.
At the Drake Relays, Kurt Schneider will be competing in the decathlon for the first time in two years. Over the course of the outdoor season, Schneider has been competing in some of the 10 different events that make up the decathlon.
“It’s hard to find a competitive multi-event and Kurt, obviously with his performance qualifying for the (indoor) nationals, is one of the top people in the country so we need to get him into the level,” MSU head coach Walt Drenth said. “The same thing goes for the triple jumpers.”
Ashley Stacey and Tori Franklin, who will be competing in the triple jump, will join Schneider. All three athletes are seeking more difficult competition in their respected events.
“It’s hard to find high-level competition in some events, so we picked Drake,” Drenth said. “We often go to Drake with relays, but with the exam schedule and travel, we were probably better off not going for a long week.”
The throwing group will head to Ashland, Ohio for its well known competition and facilities for throwing events.
“It’s a really good meet for our throwers and it’s one that they will benefit from,” Drenth said. “Just getting in that high-level competition will really prepare them for the conference meet. The Ashland meet is designed for the throwers.”
The runners will stay close to home, competing at the Hillsdale College GINA Relays.
“We’re trying to take advantage of some individual opportunities and some relays,” Drenth said. “Right now, we’ve got a lot of things on the schedule, but whether we compete in all of them will likely be predicated by the weather.”
In an effort to continue the sprinters’ positive momentum the relay teams will be looking to compete, along with younger distance runners. More experienced distance runners are taking the weekend off for training purposes.
“In the distance group, we’re going to take most of our younger group again and give them a chance. We feel like they need some good turns, so they’re the ones we are primarily focusing on this weekend,” Drenth said.
On Wednesday, Leah O’Connor earned Big Ten Track Athlete of the Week after a career-best performance in the 3,000-meter steeplechase last weekend. Her time of 9:44.35 currently leads the Big Ten and puts her at second in the NCAA. This is O’Connor’s first outdoor track and field honor of her career.
Next weekend, as students head home the athletes will stay on the road competing at the Billy Hayes Invite (Bloomington, Ind.), Dave Rankin Invite (West Lafayette, Ind.) and Payton Jordan Cardinal Invite (Palo Alto, Calif.).
Alexa McCarthy is the host of Last Leg for Impact Sports.
Photo: Alexa McCarthy/Impact Sports