March 7, 2013
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Five Purdue track and field student-athletes will compete this weekend at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships. Three will compete on Friday while the other two are scheduled to battle for an NCAA Title on Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark.
Dani Bunch will be the first Boilermaker to compete in the Championships. She qualified in the weight throw with the No. 5 mark in a country after throwing 21.61m (70-10-75) at the Big Ten Championships. The women's weight throw is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. CT on Friday with the trials and finals. The top returner from last year's event is Brittany Smith of Illinois State. Smith finished third in the event a year ago. Felisha Johnson of Indiana State, though, is the favorite in the event. Johnson has the nation's best throw by exactly two and a half feet with a mark of 23.06m (75-08). Bunch and Johnson have already competed against each other multiple times this season. Bunch finished 14th last year at the NCAA Championships with a throw of 18.84m (61-09.75).
Jakob Engel is the second Boilermaker scheduled to compete at the championships and is in the shot put. Engel qualified last weekend as he recorded the biggest throw of his career with a mark of 19.16m (62-10.50). The mark is good for second in Purdue history and 12th in the country this year and within a meter of the No. 2 mark. Arizona State's Jordan Clarke is the defending National Champion in the event. He leads the nation this season as well with a best of 20.59m (67-06.75). This is the first time Engel has qualified for the NCAA Indoor Championships. The men's shot put trials and finals are scheduled to begin at 3:15 p.m.
Vanessa McLeod will wrap up the first day of action for Purdue. She is scheduled to run the 800m semifinals at 7:15 p.m. McLeod enters the championships with the ninth-fastest time in the nation. She won the B1G Championships with her 2:05.21 time two weeks ago. Natalja Piliusina of Oklahoma State is the top returner in the event from last season. She finished second in the event last year. Charlene Lipsey of LSU leads the nation this year. The senior ran a time of 2:02.48 at the SEC Championships. If McLeod is in the top eight of the semifinals, she will advance to the finals which are scheduled for 7:20 p.m. on Saturday.
Chukwuebuka Enekwechi is scheduled to kick off action for the Boilermakers on Saturday. The freshman will compete in the men's weight throw which is scheduled for 2 p.m. Enekwechi has a season best of 21.90m (71-10.25) which he threw at the Big Ten Championships. His mark is fifth-best in the country. Alexander Ziegler of Virginia Tech is the top returner from last year's championships as he finished third. This year, he has the nation's best mark of 23.69m (77-08.75) which he threw at the ACC Championships. That mark is nearly four feet farther than any other competitor this season. The Big Ten has seven of the 16 competitors in the event.
Geoff Davis wraps up the scheduled action for Purdue, aside from McLeod's potential finals in the 800m. Davis qualified for the men's high jump with the sixth-best jump in the country as he cleared 2.26m (7-05). The high jump finals are scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The event looks to be one of the best in the entire championships. While Marcus Jackson of Mississippi State is the top returner from last year's championships where he finished fourth, two Olympic Medalists are in the field. Erik Kynard of Kansas State leads the nation this year with a jump of 2.33m (7-07.75). He took the silver medal at the 2012 Olympics. Derek Drouin of Indiana has the second-best mark after he cleared 2.32m (7-07.25). He was the bronze medalists at the 2012 Olympic Games.
The track and field championships will be aired on ESPN3.com beginning at 6:25 p.m. ET on Friday. Coverage will continue on Saturday at 6:50 p.m. on Saturday. Entrants, timing schedule, live results, and much more can be found on the USTFCCCA Championships Central page which is linked at the top of the page. Live scoring will also be available on PurdueSports.com.