Throwers shine for U women’s track

by Jim Schortemeyer

The results just keep getting better for Aubrey Schmitt and Nicole Chimko.
Both throwers made the best of the Last Chance meet on Saturday at the Bierman Track and Field Stadium. The two combined to post NCAA qualifying efforts in three out of four events for Minnesota.
Chimko got the day started off right with a tremendous javelin toss of 176 feet. The throw earned her an automatic entry to next month’s NCAA Championships, was the second best in Minnesota history and made her the only Gopher to automatically qualify this year. Perhaps the most impressive twist to that throw: It was into the wind.
The competitive relationship between all the throwers was particularly evident in the discus competition.
Even though Minnesota’s throwers stood together cheering for each other, there was a definite competitive edge between Schmitt and Chimko. Schmitt’s discus throw of 52.9 meters traveled just .38 meters further than Chimko’s.
“I have to throw a 53 (meters) now just to beat you,” Chimko joked to Schmitt.
Both throwers had provisional qualifying marks in the discus for the NCAA Championships.
Hammer thrower Brenda Meyer got into the act as well, recording the second-best throw on the team this year. Throwing coach Lynne Anderson explained the throwers don’t necessarily push each other to excellence:
“I don’t think it’s a push. It’s a feed. Even Brenda — they feed off each other.”
Schmitt was urged on to strong performances by close friends and relatives. Jay Powell, her old throwing coach from Hastings High School, was at the meet and reminisced about the first time Schmitt threw the discus.
“We went to a circle 15 minutes before the competition and went over the basics,” Powell said. “She was a once in a lifetime athlete to work with.”
The shot put went well for Schmitt too, considering she was throwing into the wind. She was also trying a new style of steps, the reverse, in which a thrower’s foot leaves the ground at the point of release. Schmitt nearly equalled her 50-foot throw from last week, throwing more than 49 feet, 7 inches.
“I did not expect that,” Schmitt said. “This is the first meet I actually did the reverse.”
Throwing results aside, there was only a handful of notable results. Yvette White took the week off from running to return home to Washington, and sprinter Shellie Braggs was in Texas for her brother’s wedding.
That left the Gophers without most of their sprinting contingent. Only two women from Minnesota ran in the five shortest races. The Gophers were also absent from the two relay team competitions (4×100 and 4×400).
In the distance races, most of Minnesota’s runners moved to a shorter race to work on their speed training. The Gophers managed to get two wins in the four distance events.
“The week before Big Tens, it’s all about sharpening up,” head coach Gary Wilson said. “It’s kind of a week of fine-tunings.”
The only other NCAA qualifying effort came from sophomore Christine Gulbrandsen in the pole vault. Gulbrandsen cleared 11-1 1/4 to tie the provisional qualification mark and set a personal record.
Gulbrandsen, Chimko, Schmitt, and 16 teammates will be at Ohio State next weekend to compete in the Big Ten Championships.