MSU - Spartans Advance 11 To NCAA Track & Field Champs
Provided by MSU
GREENSBORO, N.C. – Michigan State track & field advanced six more Spartans to the national meet on the third and final day of the NCAA East Preliminary Championships. Held at the Irwin Belk Track on the campus of NC A&T State University, Tori Franklin, Caleb Rhynard and the women’s 4x400-meter relay team qualified for the NCAA Championships on Saturday.
“I’m just ecstatic about the way the meet ended," said director of track & field/cross country Walt Drenth. "We talked about this last year at the end of the regional meet and the necessary energy and mentality you have to have to compete here and they really answered that challenge today. We’re a more mature team, but they still have to come and bring energy for what feels like a really long weekend. I’ve learned the importance of having a team that has strength at the end of the meet and we represented that well today. Everybody who competed today was all in and it’s been indicative of us all year. Hopefully this is a sign of how we are maturing as a program. To come out and be competitive like this, I’m just really proud of the kids. This is a large group of individuals going to an NCAA Championship and it’s been a while since Michigan State has advanced this many people. Hopefully we can continue to build from here.”
The women’s 4x400-meter relay team qualified for the national meet for the first time since 1983. The team of sophomores Jellisa Westney, Alicia Evans, Jaelynn Pryor and redshirt senior Alysson Bodenbach punched their ticket to nationals with a season-best time of 3:36.39.
“It’s very special,” said assistant Coach Randy Gillon. “This time last year, we came in with a high seed and underachieved. I challenged them then about how you have to manage yourself at this stage. The season was challenging at times and we didn’t run our best coming in and as a result, we kind of snuck in the back door. But, they chose to compete and engage. What we saw today was what I believed and saw was always in them - to be able to compete on that stage. To see them go out there and rally like they did, I can’t put it into words.”
Winning the women’s triple jump competition, sophomore Tori Franklin advanced to her second national meet. Franklin moved into first place with a mark of 13.36m/ 43-10 and never let go, automatically qualifying for the NCAA Championships.
“Obviously we came here to make it to the NCAA meet,” said assistant coach Vanitta Kinard. “I definitely knew that with what we were jumping that Tori was going to do that. Day in and day out, she can do it in her sleep. What we’ve been working on all year long is just consistency. It was all about coming here, making it to the next round, competing and we finally got a win.”
Also qualifying in the 5,000-meter run was freshman Caleb Rhynard. He posted a time of 14:04.47 to advance to his first national championship meet. He is one of only three freshman to qualify in the event.
“For a freshman to make a final in a distance event is quite a challenge,” said Drenth. “He’s so tough, it’s just who he is. He’s relentless, he’s fearless and he does all the things that you would expect someone to do. I’m thrilled for him. The distance running is a developmental sport and to be able to come in as a freshman and not be seeded in the top-12, my hats off to him. To be this good as a freshman and make it to nationals, that’s a huge step. I have no doubt that he will continue to live with those expectations and get better and better.”
The 11 members of the team will travel to Eugene, Ore., to compete at the NCAA Outdoor Championships on June 5-8.