WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The Boilermakers crowned their first men’s outdoor Big Ten champion since 2011 on a rainy first day of the conference championships that included a two-hour storm delay. Chukwuebuka Enekwechi battled the elements to become the first overall winner at the 2014 Big Ten Outdoor Championships.
Enekwechi opened the hammer with a throw of 62.42m (204-9) to sit in second place behind Michael Lihrman of Wisconsin, the weight throw NCAA Championship this year and Big Ten record holder in the hammer. Enekwechi would get better on each of his next three throws, while Lihrman’s best attempt came on his first, a mark of 65.15m (213-9).
Enekwechi closed the gap to five centimeters on his third attempt with a throw of 65.10m (213-7), before unleashing a toss of 66.22m (217-3) on his fourth. The mark would hold up as several competitors slipped in the wet ring while rain came down throughout the entire event. Enekwechi was the only competitor to have counted throws on all six attempts.
The Purdue sophomore becomes the school’s first male outdoor Big Ten champion sinceShane Crawford won the 100m dash and Geoff Davis won the high jump in 2011. Enekwechi is the program’s 93rd individual conference champion during the outdoor season and the fifth in the hammer. Fittingly, Ben Harpenau, Purdue’s last hammer throw champion who won in 2009, awarded Enekwechi the gold medal. Enekwechi is the first collegian to beat Lihrman in any event this year, indoor or out.
“Things were kind of hindered by the rain, but I said it was a beautiful day to throw far,” Enekwechi said with the gold medal around his neck. “Of course I didn’t mean it, but we all were in the same conditions so it worked out. I had some good throws and I came out on top.
“Lihrman had the pressure on me the whole competition pretty much, so it’s cool to come out on top. It’s a good competition. Winning any competition feels good, but this one feels the best.”
Dani Bunch provided more excitement in the women’s hammer throw. The senior, competing on her 23rd birthday in place of walking at graduation, battled the same, if not stronger, wind and rain as the men. Bunch opened with a modest throw of 51.70m (169-7), good for second place. She then took the lead after launching a near-PR toss of 58.25m (191-1) on her second attempt.
The Mahomet, Ill., native took the lead into finals, but was unable to stay in the ring on her final three attempts. Penn State’s Melissa Kurzdorfer hit a pair of throws over 60m in the finals, with a best of 60.51m (198-6), to take the women’s title. Bunch finished second, the fifth-silver medal of her Big Ten indoor and outdoor career, to earn her 10thconference medal as a Boilermaker. It was her first medal in the hammer.
The only other finals event to be completed Friday was the 10k, both men’s and women’s. The men’s pole vault was supposed to take place in the early afternoon, but that was right in the middle of the lightning, heavy rain, and forecasted potential hail and dangerous winds. The event was delayed until 3:30 p.m., but more heavy rain pushed the event back until Saturday and is scheduled for 5 p.m. ET.
In the men’s 10k, a puddle-filled track slowed conditions, but it didn’t stop Wisconsin from sweeping the podium. Reed Connor won with a time of 29:06.10, while Mohammed Ahmed took second. Michael VanVoorhis finished third with a time of 29:06.65. The top nine individuals broke the facility record, which was 29:22.16 by Wisconsin’s Simon Bairu from the 2004 Big Ten Championships. Matthew McClintock was Purdue’s top finisher and took 13th with a time of 29:33.82.
In the women’s 10k, Michigan’s Erin Finn was the story. The Wolverine freshman lapped the entire field en route to breaking the conference’s 28-year old record of 32:54.37 set in 1986 by Wisconsin’s Stephanie Herbst. Along with the conference record, Finn took down the Rankin Track and Field facility record, a time of 33:49.35 by Wisconsin’s Katie Ishmael, that had stood since 1983.
Finn finished with the sixth-best time in the country, a mark of 32:41.65, to win by nearly a minute and 20 seconds. Purdue’s Sharise Lund began the race, put pulled up with a leg injury that forced her to stop the race after only a few laps.
Kathryn Graf also competed for Purdue on Friday. The sophomore is in the heptathlon and currently sits 13th. She cleared an outdoor PR in the high jump of 1.61m (5-03.25) and also ran a PR in the 100m hurdles with a time of 15.63 seconds. Graf has 2,571 points after four events.
The action returns at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, while the Boilermakers first compete at 12:15 p.m. with the heptathlon long jump. Saturday’s full boat of action will include indoor two-time Big Ten champion Raheem Mostert, who is scheduled for three events, Bunch, who will try to three-peat in the shot put, and four other Purdue school record holders.
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