Pair of relays giving Minnesota a leg up on the competition

The 1,600-meter and distance medley relays both set school records last weekend.

One of the broken records for Minnesota’s women’s track and field team during the weekend was somewhat expected. The other was more of a surprise.

Both the distance medley relay and the 1,600-meter relay teams set new school records competing at the Iowa State Classic in Ames, Iowa.

But the records came from different sources. Three of the four runners on the 1,600 team ran the event at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships in May, while the two longest legs of the distance medley team did not even compete last year.

“We felt that our 4×4 relay could for sure do it, but we had some untested people in the DMR,” said Minnesota coach Gary Wilson, who said he had never before had two relays set records in the same meet.

The 1,600 team included veteran runners Melissa Steele, Mollie Hupp and Kadian Douglas, who all were a part of the 1,600 team that finished fourth at last year’s Big Ten outdoor meet.

They have had their sights on the indoor relay record since December, when they talked with assistant coach Matt Bingle about breaking it.

“It was definitely a goal we had,” Steele said. “I think it was a surprise that it came so early in the season.”

Katie Grundman was the original choice to run with Steele, Hupp and Douglas at Iowa State. But a fall in an earlier race forced the coaches to put Candace Borgen in her place.

The last-minute replacement was not a distraction, however, as the team ran a 3:41.15 to place third out of 35 teams.

“Borgen did a great job coming in,” Bingle said. “She was told just two hours before the race that she was running.”

The team said it feels it can improve on its time and break the record again at the Big Ten Indoor Championships in two weeks in Ann Arbor, Mich. The race at Iowa State was unusually rough, and Minnesota had weak hand-offs, Douglas said.

In contrast, the distance medley team went into the Iowa State meet with little experience but high expectations.

Hupp and Steele were joined in the relay by freshman Ladia Albertson-Junkans and sophomore Emily Brown, who was running the distance medley for the first time in college.

“You never know,” Wilson said. “I said that’s the goal, to break the school record.”

Minnesota had a large lead through most of the race, so the ending was anti-climatic as the team won in a time of 11:35.23, breaking the 10-year-old record.

A faster finish will be likely for the distance medley team at the conference indoor meet as well, when the Gophers will face much-tougher competition.

Wilson said he thinks a top-three finish is probable for both teams, though it is uncertain which runners will be in what relays.

The final decision will be based mostly on who is running the individual events, so as not to wear out any runners.

But Wilson said whoever runs and whatever success they see, the relays are a credit to how deep the team is.

“This is the most depth and youth and talent that we’ve ever had here,” he said.

“They’re going to be a very special team.”