COLUMBUS, Ohio — Almost two years into its time as a Big Ten member, Nebraska now has its first men’s conference team championship.
And perhaps the start of a Big Ten run for the Husker track and field program?
“It’s a young team,” NU coach Gary Pepin said Sunday after the Big Ten outdoor championships. “There weren’t very many seniors that scored out there. So I think that was exciting to all those kids afterwards because they looked at the group and had to think, ‘Gee, we got a pretty good team here and a lot of kids back.’”
Already en route to victory at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, the Huskers punctuated it by winning the 1,600 relay in 3:07.87. Nebraska’s final score of 131.5 points easily outdistanced runner-up Minnesota at 93.
Until this weekend, Nebraska had yet to win a conference title with any of its nine men’s programs since joining the Big Ten in 2011. The Huskers’ last men’s track title had come in the Big 12 outdoor meet in 2010.
In February, Pepin said NU felt like it had let one slip away with a fourth-place finish in the conference indoor meet, when the top five teams were all within four points.
“There’s certainly a challenge there, in that we’ve had great teams in these other conferences and we need a good team here,” Pepin said. “We kind of felt, at least as a staff, that we ought to win this one. I think it would have been a real disappointment if we hadn’t won it.”
Overall, the school now owns 105 all-time conference championships in track and field, and 69 under Pepin in a reign that started with a Big Eight indoor title in 1981.
The Nebraska women settled for sixth place with 75 points. Penn State won the women’s title with 133.
Pepin had to wonder a little about the Huskers’ chances Saturday when Chad Wright was upset in the discus and NU lost one hurdler to a controversial disqualification and another went down in a preliminary heat.
“We thought that could be a 10- to 15-point loss,” he said. “We had some other people that started picking things up along the way.”
Wright rebounded Sunday to win the shot put with a personal-best launch of 63 feet, 7Ĺ inches. That mark ranks third nationally and came on his final throw.
The 1,600 team already ranked first in the Big Ten before winning Sunday, with legs by true freshman Levi Gipson and Cody Rush. Gipson then placed second and Rush third in the individual 400, with Christian Sanderfer sixth.
Both Gipson (46.44) and Rush (46.70) posted personal-best times.
Among the Huskers’ other top finishers were Ricco Hall taking third in the 200 (21.37), Tibor Koroknai third in the 400 hurdles (52.02), Janis Leitis fourth in the triple jump (50-2) and Dexter McKenzie fourth in both the 100 (10.49) and 200 (21.39).
McKenzie and Hall also ran legs on the 400 team that finished second with a season-best time of 40.23.
Mara Griva led the Nebraska women by winning her second Big Ten title of the weekend. Griva took the triple jump at 43-5ľ for the ninth conference championship of her career.
Nebraska next starts preparations for the NCAA West Preliminary Round, beginning May 23 in Austin, Texas.
Team results: Nebraska 131.5, Minnesota 93, Wisconsin 86.5, Illinois 86, Iowa 85, Ohio State 84, Indiana 67.5, Penn State 59, Purdue 56, Michigan 36, Michigan State 33.5.
Event winners: 100 meters: Justin Austin, Iowa, 10.27. 200: Austin, Iowa, 20.86. 400: Stephon Pamilton, Illinois, 46.06. 800: Harun Abda, Minnesota, 1:48.64. 1,500: Andrew Bayer, Indiana, 3:44.24. 5,000: Bayer, Indiana, 13:54.71. 10,000: Maverick Darling, Wisconsin, 29:25.11. 110 hurdles: Vanier Joseph, Illinois, 13.70. 400 hurdles: Ethan Holmes, Iowa, 50.78. 3,000 steeplechase: Alex Brill, Wisconsin, 8:51.51. 400 relay: Iowa, 40.20. 1,600 relay: Nebraska 3:07.87. High jump: Derek Drouin, Indiana, 2.24m. Pole vault: Zach Siegmeier, Minnesota, 5.21m. Long jump: Mike Hartfield, Ohio State, 7.69m. Triple jump: Hartfield, Ohio State, 15.62m. Shot put: Chad Wright, Nebraska, 19.39m. Discus: Antonio James, Michigan State, 58.25m. Hammer throw: Micah Hegerle, Minnesota, 65.34m. Javelin: Bill Stanley, Ohio State, 75.23m. Decathlon: Zach Ziemek, Wisconsin, 7,640.
Team results: Penn State 133, Illinois 120, Ohio State 86, Michigan 82, Michigan State 76, Nebraska 75, Wisconsin 74.5, Minnesota 66.5, Indiana 38, Purdue 37, Iowa 31.
Event winners: 100 meters: Mahagony Jones, Penn State, 11.32. 200: Ashley Spencer, Illinois, 23.20. 400: Spencer, Illinois, 52.27. 800: Samantha Murphy, Illinois 2:06.62. 1,500: Amanda Eccleston, Michigan, 4:20.75. 5,000: Leah O’Connor, Michigan State, 16:09.46. 10,000: Caitlin Comfort, Wisconsin, 33:30.16. 100 hurdles: Evonne Britton, Penn State, 13.13. 400 hurdles: Alexis Franklin, Ohio State, 58.31. 3,000 steeplechase: O’Connor, Michigan State, 9:53.53. 400 relay: Ohio State, 44.76. 1,600 relay: Illinois, 3:36.18. High jump: Emma Kimoto, Indiana, 1.77m. Pole vault: Stephanie Richartz, Illinois, 4.27m. Long jump: Mara Griva, Nebraska, 6.32m. Triple jump: Griva, Nebraska, 13.24m. Shot put: Dani Bunch, Purdue, 17.13m. Discus: Beth Rohl, Michigan State, 55.22m. Hammer throw: Alexis Thomas, Ohio State, 64.19m. Javelin: Lauren Kenney, Penn State, 52.98m. Heptathlon: Dorcas Akinniyi, Wisconsin 5,411.