Penn State

Entering final day, Penn State track & field still eyeing Big Ten championships

Penn State's Megan McCloskey clears the bar during the high jump at the Big Ten Track and Field Championships on Saturday, May 13 2017 at Penn State.
Penn State's Megan McCloskey clears the bar during the high jump at the Big Ten Track and Field Championships on Saturday, May 13 2017 at Penn State.

With two days in the books and only one day remaining in the Big Ten Outdoor Track & Field Championships, both the Penn State men’s and the women’s teams continue to stay in the hunt for the conference titles.

For the second straight day, the men sit atop the standings with 52 points. Michigan is currently the runner-up with 40 points, and Nebraska — which stands in fifth — is a team to watch with 32 points, as it boasts the most athletes in the final events Sunday.

On the women’s side, it’s a battle between four teams. Minnesota boasts a conference-leading 45.5 points, but Michigan isn’t far behind with 45 points. Penn State is in third with 40 points, and Purdue is in fourth with 33 points. Penn State and Purdue entered the three-day event as the favorites for the title as they finished first and second at the indoor championships.

Most exciting event: Women’s high jump

Michigan’s Claire Kieffer-Wright came up clutch on her final jump of the day to take the gold medal in the women’s high jump. The bar was set at 6 feet,  1/2 inch — and only three competitors remained: Kieffer-Wright, Purdue’s Janae Moffitt and Penn State’s Megan McCloskey. McCloskey missed all three of her jumps and finished third overall. Kieffer-Wright had to make her final jump at the final height, or else she would’ve placed third and Moffitt would have won. In arguably the biggest surprise of the day, Kieffer-Wright cleared the bar to put the pressure on Moffitt, who could not clear her final jump.

Day 2 MVP: Penn State’s Malik Moffett

School record, No. 4 mark in the country and Big Ten gold — that sounds like a day any track and field athlete would love to have, and Penn State’s Malik Moffett was no different. After a slow clap from the home crowd, Moffett had his adrenaline going in the long jump and finished with a school record-breaking distance of 26-3.

Penn State jumps coach Kevin Kelly held on to Moffett as the jump was measured and then picked him up, smiling, as he knew the record was broken.

“My first jump was good, but Coach Kelly came over said, ‘This jump will be the one,’” Moffett said. “I got the crowd going and, when I landed, I knew I finally had the record. I’ve been going for the record for a long time.”

Biggest PSU surprises: Karson Kowalchuk, Dan Chisena, Tyreek Mathis

The trio of sprinters surprised many with their clutch performances Saturday. Kowalchuk, a freshman from Canada, was ranked 20th coming into the 100-meter prelims and ran a personal-best of 10.55 to qualify for the 100-meter final, where he can earn critical points for the Nittany Lions. He currently ranks eighth and joins Xavier Smith and Moffett as three Nittany Lions who will race for the 100-meter gold Sunday. As for Chisena and Mathis, both had never run sub-47 in the open 400-meter before Saturday. Chisena ended up clocking a time of 46.83 seconds and Mathis ran 46.93 to give Penn State two men in the 400-meter final.

What’s at stake Day 3: Big Ten titles

Everything will be on the line Sunday. On the men’s side, it’s essentially between Penn State and Nebraska — and every event matters. The same goes for the women’s team with Penn State having to battle it out with Purdue. Every place is going to matter; the difference between eighth and ninth in a given event could sway the championship. Sunday should be a Big Ten championship to remember.