Kostrzewa Opens Big Ten Outdoor Track & Field Championships With School Record
Michigan State track & field has earned points in every scored event on the opening day of the Big Ten Outdoor Championships.
Lincoln, Nebraska – Senior Connor Kostrzewa opened the 2016 Big Ten Outdoor Track & Field Championships on Friday, May 13, with a school record in the hammer throw to finish fourth. After two scored events at the Ed Weir Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska, Michigan State is tied in fourth on the men’s side with eight points and fifth in the women’s team standings with nine points.
“You always want to get on the board on the first day if you can,” said Director of Track & Field and Cross Country Walt Drenth. “People that contested today competed hard. Connor was outstanding after fouling his first throw. He just got better and better each attempt and was poised. Today really was a testament to coach (Blaine) Maag and Connor’s work.”
Kostrzewa notched the Spartans’ first points of the week, finishing fourth in the men’s hammer throw with a toss of 65.03m. The mark broke the MSU record of 64.62m, which he set this season at the Hillsdale College Gina Relays. Junior Vinny Gjokaj earned a spot in the finals and finished ninth with a distance of 61.60m.
“Connor is a product of a great throws program led by coach Maag,” Drenth said. “There is a culture there, and there have been outstanding athletes for long time in the throwing area. We have made that a point of emphasis. They work their tails off, and they love to throw. It is part of who they are. It is a testament to a lot of things, including Connor’s work and persistence.”
In the women’s hammer, senior Cynthia Watt etched a fourth-place finish with a heave of 61.58m, which came on her second attempt of the afternoon.
In the women’s 10,000 meters, senior Shelby Jackson set a new career best with an effort of 34:27.37 to finish fifth. Her previous best of 34:51.55 came earlier this season at the Raleigh Relays. Junior Clark Ruiz raced his way to a sixth-place finish in the men’s 10K. Ruiz clocked a 29:59.25 to add three points to MSU’s tally.
“With Shelby, she led and put the pressure on,” said Drenth. “They ran the heck out of the last 5K and she was responsible for it. I was really impressed with her. She managed herself so well. She didn’t lose poise when she got passed and just kept racing. Most of the team was out there supporting. All of our runners in the 10K ran tough as nails, and it was fun to watch. It really gave everyone a clue how to behave.
“Everyone that ran the 10,000 meters for us tonight was all in. Clark took a big chance when the pack broke and he went with the break. He might have over ran it, but he did a great job. He could have finished a place or two better, maybe, if he had been more cautious, but he took the bold move and I’m with him. As he continues to mature, that is a move that will be less of a risk for him.”
Freshman Asya Reynolds is in seventh after four events of the heptathlon. Reynolds, who set the program record this season at the Virginia Challenge, totaled 3,137 points on day one. She opened the competition with a 14.26 in the 100 hurdles to take fifth and tally 942 points.
After five events in the decathlon, sophomore Justin Pederson is in 13th with 3,717 points. His highest point total of the day came in the long jump with a career-best leap of 7.35m, earning Pederson 898 points.
“Justin came out hard in 100 then got a personal best in the long jump,” Drenth said. “Asya had a good first event as well and then had a PR in the high jump. She was good throughout the day in a national-level multi-event field. She has stuck her nose right in it and has put herself in a position to score.”
Through two scored events, Purdue paces the men’s championship with 18 points. Michigan and Minnesota are second and third, respectively, with scores of 15 and 10. Indiana leads the women’s competition with 18 points, as Minnesota and Wisconsin have both amassed 15 points.
“There is so much going on tomorrow, which makes it so critical,” said Drenth. “We have to make it to finals to score points. We’ll put our best foot forward, and we feel good about how they are behaving. This is a great conference, and I know we will compete and be disciplined.”
Saturday’s slate commences at 9:30 a.m. with the continuation of the multi-event competitions. Finals of the men’s discus, m/w long jump, men’s high jump, men’s pole vault, women’s shot put, women’s javelin and m/w steeplechase will be contested on day two.