Feb. 23, 2013
GENEVA, Ohio - Vanessa McLeod won the gold medal in the 800m run and several other Boilermakers podiumed on the final day of the Big Ten Championships. The Purdue women finished ninth with 36 points while the men took 10th with 35.833 points.
"I thought the kids competed really well," head coach Lonnie Greene said. "When you have freshmen winning the Big Ten Conference in Vanessa McLeod, Brandon Winters making the top three in the hurdles as a junior, Chuk and Coy finishing third as freshmen, Aarin Jones and Andrew Kendrick scoring in the 400, an event we have not scored in for a long time, Kelly McCurdy in 5k running one of the fastest times in school history, both relay teams scoring indoors, and the men run one of the fastest times in school history in the 4x4, the future is bright. The women ran one of the top times in the relays in school history as well.
"Overall, I'm really, really pleased. The kids competed very well. When we come to the Big Ten Championships in the next few years, I think we will be more effective. We still have a few more pieces to collect and put together, but I'm excited for what the future holds."
McLeod qualified for the finals after finishing second in her heat with a time of 2:08.23 on Friday. Her time was the slowest to qualify. That didn't matter to the freshman. McLeod got out to a strong start and was holding in second heading into the final turn. From there, she picked up speed and gained momentum. On the final home stretch, McLeod turned on the jets and outran Samantha Murphy of Illinois to claim to 800m crown. McLeod finished in 2:05.21 which broke her own school record by 2.49 seconds.
Dani Bunch was back on the podium for the second straight day. Bunch finished runner-up in the shot put on Friday before Saturday's weight throw. There, Bunch got off to a good start. She threw a distance of 21.61m (70-10.75) with her second throw. That mark is one centimeter, a half inch, shy of the Purdue record. Beth Rohl of Michigan State brought her A-game, though. Rohl finished with 22.17m (72-09.00) which is the nation's third-best mark. Bunch had one last shot to catch Rohl and had her best throw of the day. However, her toe went barely too far which negated the throw as foul. Bunch finished second and picked up eight more points which brought her weekend total to 16. Her throw is fifth-best in the country.
Chukwuebuka Enekwechi also tried to have a big day in the weight throw a day after scoring in the shot put. Enekwechi hit 21.90m (71-10.25) on his second throw which gave him the lead heading into the finals. The Purdue freshman was unable to improve his mark and two Michigan State throwers passed him and gave Enekwechi the bronze medal. Enekwechi's mark is fourth in Purdue history and fifth in the nation. Six of the top eight throwers in the nation this year are in the Big Ten and all eight scorers' distances in the finals were in the top 18 nationally.
"This freshman class is important to our future," Greene added. "We will bring more freshmen in next fall that I think could push us even further over the hill. We need to continue to nurture. The new class will hopefully catch the spirit of competition that we have instilled in this program. I believe with all sincerity that we will be a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten."
The Purdue men also got on the podium in the 60m hurdles. A day after winning his prelim with a time of 7.87 seconds, Brandon Winters took the bronze medal in the finals with a time of 7.82 seconds. That time is the fastest of his career and ranks fifth in Purdue history. That time is also 21st in the country this year.
Geoff Davis found his way onto the podium for the third-straight year in the high jump. The senior cleared 2.20m (7-02.50) and was among the final three, past last year's conference champion, Darius King. Davis was unable to clear another bar while James White of Nebraska made it over 2.23m (7-03.75). Derek Drouin of Indiana was crowned Big Ten Champion as he cleared 2.26m (7-05.00).
Kelly McCurdy gave the Boilermakers another three points on Saturday. McCurdy scored one point on Friday in the 3,000-meter run. On Saturday, she was entered in the 5k. There, she ran the third-fastest time in Purdue history with a time of 16:23.70. McCurdy's previous-best indoor 5k time was 17:08.70, a full 45 seconds higher than her new best. That is also the 46th-fastest time in the country this season. Matthew McClintock also had the third-fastest time in Purdue history in the 5k. McClintock finished 12th in the race with a time of 14:18.95. That moves him ahead of Tom Bogenshutz's time of 14:20.07 from 1981.
The Purdue men also picked up a point in the 400m dash. Andrew Kendrick qualified for the finals despite finishing 11th in the prelims. The ruling came that he was obstructed which impeded his path and his time. After a long deliberation process, Kendrick was granted admission to the finals. The finals were run in two heats, a two-person heat which included Kendrick, and the main eight. Kendrick won his heat with a time of 47.90 seconds which held up for eighth overall. The women's team also scored a point in the 400m dash. Aarin Jones finished eighth with a time of 56.46 seconds.
The men's team wrapped up the day with a fifth place finish in the 4x400m relay. The men finished with one of the fastest relay times in Purdue history as Mario Cosey, Nicholas Parks, Andre' Peart, and Kendrick finished in 3:09.73. The Boilermaker men finished ahead of Michigan State.
"We ran 3:14 last year at the conference meet in the men's 4x4. Now we are running 3:09," said Greene. "We are running division one-type relays. We'll look at it at the end of the day to see how we stand nationally, but they deserve another shot to compete because they are coming together. We dropped our head and fought this weekend and that is all I could ask them to do. We will be better. The future is bright at Purdue."
Cierra Brown scored a point in her first career Big Ten Championships. Brown needed her third and final jump of prelims to qualify for the finals, but she gave it her all on that jump. The freshman leapt 12.25m (40-02.25) to advance by an inch and a half. That distance held up to be her best and she finished eighth.
The women's placing came down to the final race. The Boilermakers and Hoosiers were knotted up at 33 points and whoever finished higher would get the higher team finish. The Boilermakers came out and finished second in their heat with a time of 3:42.41. That time would hold up for sixth place in the event for Taylor Morrison, Jones, Kari Shoolbraid, and Bre'Anna Smith and gave the Purdue women the ninth place finish.
The men's 10th place finish was 3.166 points shy of ninth place. The Boilermakers were also just 4.166 points out of eighth.
Some of the Boilermakers will be back in action next week at last chance meets. The team has a pair scheduled with the Alex Wilson Invitational and the Wisconsin NCAA Qualifier.