Michigan State track & field finished 11th on the men’s side and 12th in the women’s competition at the Big Ten Indoor Championships.
GENEVEA, Ohio – Seniors Caleb Rhynard and Connor Kostrzewa finished the final day of the Big Ten Indoor Championships at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio, on the podium, notching third-place finishes on Saturday, Feb. 27. The men’s team finished the weekend 11th with 34 points, as the women took 12th with a score of 24.50.
“We will regroup and get ready for outdoors,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Walt Drenth. “We were pretty good today. We just need to be a little more disciplined and consistent. We could have been in a couple of more finals and should have scored in a couple of more events, but we need to come to championships and be ready to compete.”
Rhynard raced his way onto the podium with a 14:02.10 to take third place in the men’s 5,000-meter run. Sophomore Clark Ruiz turned in a lifetime best 14:21.76 to finish in 15th.
Junior Alexis Wiersma broke the 16-minute barrier for the first time in her career in the 5,000 meter, crossing the line in 15:59.67. Wiersma’s lifetime best stood for fourth overall. Junior Shelby Jackson chipped in two points to the team tally with a seventh-place performance, running a 16:26.73.
“Both Ally (Alexis) and Caleb have made a lot of progress, and their performances show it,” said Drenth. “We need those big performances to develop national caliber competitors. It wasn’t surprising to see them run well, and it has been fun to watch that growth.
“Shelby and Clark both battled for the whole race and I was proud of their efforts. I see them continuing to grow and have a chance to be national qualifiers this spring.”
Senior Cynthia Watt put forth an impactful performance in the women’s weight throw, finishing fifth with a mark of 20.05m, out-performing her seed of 19.72m. The lifetime-best throw came on her final attempt of the day. Sophomore Katelyn Daniels finished 11th with an 18.87-meter heave.
The weight throw proved to be the most prosperous for the Spartans on the men’s side, with three scoring points led by Kostrzewa earning a place on the podium with a third-place effort. He recorded a lifetime-best of 21.45m on his fifth attempt of the afternoon. Sophomore Riley Norman rounded out the top five with a heave of 20.95m. Junior Vinny Gjokaj finished in eighth, starting his day with a throw of 20.47m.
“The weight throw is such a good event for us, and the Big Ten is very deep and competitive,” Drenth said. “To have three (on the men’s side) score, that is a testament to the type of athletes they are, but also the coaching and the great job Coach (Blaine) Maag has done managing them.”
Sophomore Justin Pederson scored in the heptathlon, battling to 5,231 points over the two-day competition. It was a new personal best and MSU season best in the event. Pederson’s strongest performance came in the long jump, garnering 838 points with a mark of 7.10m. He set lifetime bests in both the high jump and pole vault this week with clearances of 1.95m and 4.63m, respectively.
“Justin did a nice job this week of competing,” said Drenth. “I really think he deserves a lot of credit. He came out and had some personal bests and was one of the leaders in the vault.”
Freshman Cody Stemple finished in a tie for 10th in the pole vault, clearing 2.03m. Stemple made both of the first two heights on his first attempts.
Nebraska won the men’s title with 116 team points, while Michigan won the women’s crown with 109 points.
The Big Ten Track Athlete of the Year, Field Athlete of the Year, Freshman of the Year, Track Athlete of the Championships, Field Athlete of the Championships and Coach of the Year will be announced on Tuesday, March 1, along with the Sportsmanship Award honorees.
BTN will air tape-delayed coverage of the Big Ten Indoor Track & Field Championships at 10:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, March 5.
“We need to get rested and take advantage of the short time we have before outdoors,” Drenth said. “We will be sure we are doing well academically and be ready for what should be a fun outdoor season. We have a good group of freshmen that we challenged a bit today, but expect them to step up. We just need to come to practice and understand what it takes to make finals and score points, and what doing that looks like from not only a training standpoint but also a management standpoint.”
The NCAA Indoor Championships are March 11-12 at the Birmingham CROSSPlex in Birmingham, Alabama. Michigan State returns as a full team in outdoors at the Raleigh Relays and Stanford Invite from March 25-26.