GENEVA, Ohio - Nebraska junior Cody Walton won the heptathlon title at the Big Ten Track & Field Indoor Championships at the SPIRE Institute on Saturday.
The Husker men fell short of their quest for a third straight indoor title, as they finished fourth with 72 points. The NU women scored 48 points and finished eighth. Indiana won the men’s team title with 112 points, while Penn State won the women’s team title with 96.5 points.
The Huskers’ lone Big Ten champion on the weekend was Walton. A native of Forest Lake, Minnesota, Walton set a personal best in the heptathlon with 5,672 points to win the competition by 146 points. Fellow junior Noah Gabel placed fourth in the event with a personal-best total of 5,497. Gabel was just seven points shy of the bronze medal.
Walton claimed the gold medal with the third-highest point total in school history. His mark moved him to 13th in the nation, and he is the first Husker to win the heptathlon since the move to the Big Ten in 2011-12. Walton entered the day with the lead and separated himself from the pack with a pole vault personal best of 16-4 3/4 (5.00m). Gabel set a personal best in the pole vault to finish second in that event with a mark of 15-9 (4.80m). He also matched his 60-meter hurdles PR of 8.41. His point total ranks seventh in school history.
Walton set personal bests in three of the seven events: shot put, high jump and pole vault.
“It feels awesome to be a Big Ten champion,” Walton said. “I’ve been working for this for years now and it’s unreal to see it happen. I’m so excited.”
Walton entered the competition with the sixth-best heptathlon score in the Big Ten this season, but a few of the top athletes were out with injuries.
“It was a tough fight,” Walton said. “Some of the good guys had a few injuries, so that opened the door and I just stepped up. I had an awesome two days and a lot of good PRs.”
Tierra Williams finished second in the triple jump for her second runner-up finish of the weekend. Williams posted a season-best jump of 43-3 (13.18m). Angela Mercurio finished fifth with a personal best of 42-4 (12.90m), nearly two feet better than her previous PR.
The men’s 4x400-meter relay of Andy Neal, Sam Bransby, Moujtaba Mohammed and Jake Bender ran 3:06.06, the third-fastest time in school history. They finished third in the event and moved to No. 15 nationally.
Neal and Bender posted personal bests in the 400 meters to finish fourth and fifth, respectively. Neal’s time of 46.35 is the fastest indoor time in Husker history by someone other than Cody Rush, and it ties him for 13th in the nation. Bender’s time of 46.40 is the fifth-fastest time in Husker history. Mohammed finished fourth in the 600 meters with a time of 1:16.72. Ty Moss was sixth in 1:18.39.
In the men’s triple jump, Kaiwan Culmer was fourth with a mark of 50-10 1/4 (15.50m). Jace Anderson set a personal best of 50-3 1/2 (15.33m) to finish sixth, and Isaiah Griffith was seventh with a jump of 50-2 1/2 (15.30m). Both were competing at the Big Ten Championships for the first time.
In the men’s high jump, Grant Anderson tied for fifth and Mike McCann tied for seventh as both cleared 6-11 (2.11m). It was a season-best mark for both athletes. Freshman Petra Luteran was the top Husker in the women's high jump, clearing 5-9 1/4 (1.76m) to finish sixth. Reka Czuth added a point by finishing eighth at 5-7 1/4 (1.71m).
Nick Percy was seventh in the weight throw after a toss of 64-11 1/2 (19.80m).
Lakayla Harris finished seventh in the 60 meters in 7.51. She was also eighth in the 200 meters in 23.79, scoring team points in both events. Jasmine Barge placed eighth in the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.43. The women’s 4x400-meter relay team featuring Kristen Dowell, Barge, Kierra Griggs and Harris posted a time of 3:40.57 to finish eighth.
Wyatt McGuire finished 11th in the 5,000 meters in 14:18.39.
The NCAA will announce the official qualifiers to the national meet later this week. This year’s NCAA Indoor Championships will be held March 10-11 in College Station, Texas.
Big Ten Champions
Cody Walton - Heptathlon (5,672)