A somewhat brief and sometimes dominant season will be coming to a head this weekend, as both the men’s and women’s track and field teams will be competing at the Big Ten Indoor Championships this weekend in Geneva, Ohio.
“You look at the top 15 times in the country, and the Big Ten is all over that,” coach Beth Alford-Sullivan said at last week’s media day. “Indiana’s in there, Minnesota’s in there, we’re in there, Wisconsin’s in there. So we’re going into the Big Ten meet, finally, in a position where we look to be contenders.”
Senior Casimir Loxsom, sophomore Robby Creese, and senior Sam Masters are three of those contenders from the No. 7 men’s team who will look to make a run at a medal this weekend, which are awarded to the top three in a given event.
Loxsom will be the top seed in the 600-meter dash, after setting a national collegiate record in the event at last month’s Penn State National.
Creese will be the top seed in the mile run, as he set the school record in the event a few weeks ago with a 3:57.11 run.
Masters will look to continue to build on his own school record, a 7:54.52 mark in the 3,000-meter run.
For the first time, the Big Ten Indoor Championships will be held at a neutral venue, the SPIRE Institute in Geneva.
In 2010 and 2011, the Indoor championships were held at Indiana and Illinois on tracks that Loxsom referred to as “suspect.”
“Coming from our amazing facility was a bit of a struggle, and transition, competing in that environment,” the record-breaking senior said at media day.
Loxsom added that some past conference championship tracks were “flat,” a serious disadvantage for runners.
Last year, the event moved to Nebraska, which Loxsom saw as a big step up, despite still not being a neutral track.
Alford-Sullivan thinks that the neutral track is something that the team can use to its advantage.
“I hope we can bring a lot of fans in, and a lot of people with us, and really kind of claim the atmosphere, because [if] someone’s going to, it might as well be us,” the coach said.
Melissa Kurzdorfer, a junior who has ranked top 10 in the Big Ten in both the shot put and the weight throw, got a sneak peak at the new SPIRE Institute track two weeks ago.
“I thought it was a great facility. It’s such an advantage to have been able to compete there this past weekend, and actually see the other Big Ten teams,” the thrower said. “That’s the first time I’ve had an opportunity to do that, so I think it will be [beneficial].”
The Big Ten Indoor Championships, in nature, can be a tune-up of sorts for those who reach the NCAA Indoor Championships, which will be held March 8-9 in Fayetteville, Ark.
Sullivan knows that to get to Arkansas, her squads will have to perform in Ohio.
“The Indoor National Championships is [elite],” Sullivan said. “It’s very limited, there are only 16 people per event, and it’s an extremely difficult competition to qualify for.”