Women’s balance on display at Minnesota Open; men cruise

by David McCoy

Every coach wants to have a balance of depth on his or her roster.

Minnesota’s women’s track and field team gave its coach just that in Saturday’s Minnesota Open at the Field House.

And while the Gophers had four upperclassmen and four underclassmen win individual events, the only thing unbalanced was coach Gary Wilson’s praise.

Without overlooking the accomplishments of his more experienced athletes, Wilson said he was the most energetic about his youngest team members, several of whom were redshirts competing unattached.

“They don’t see it yet, because they have no perspective, because they’re not an old coach like me,” Wilson said. “But you look at this group and you think ‘Shoot, man, just think what these guys are going to be like in a month, in six months, a year, from now, two years from now,’ and you go, ‘Whoa.’

“If this whole team can stick together, they’re going to do some pretty damn special things over the next two to three years.”

Minnesota’s youngsters’ victories all came in field events, of which they won all but the triple jump.

Freshman Liz Roehig’s 5.6-meter hop led the way as the Gophers swept the top four places in the long jump.

Several young Gophers were critical to Minnesota’s success on the track as well.

While junior Mollie Hupp set a new personal best by more than two seconds, winning the 400-meter dash in 55.95 seconds, sophomore Kadian Douglas and freshman Katie Grundman set new personal bests in taking second and third, respectively.

Those three teamed up with senior Teresa Smock to win the 4×400-meter relay and two other Minnesota teams took second and third behind them.

The success and promise shown by Minnesota’s youth Saturday has Wilson awfully excited about his team’s future, he said.

“Back in 2000, we finished second (in the Big Ten),” Wilson said. “In 2001, we finished third, and I see this group as being every bit – if not better – than those groups for the Big Ten title.”

Men balanced as well

Minnesota’s men’s track and field team had four underclassmen and four upperclassmen win individual events as well.

But the highlight of the day for the team was seeing three of its redshirts – Luke Walker, Matt Damico and Ben Puhl – sweep the top three places in the mile run.

“The times were not fast, but they’re young,” men’s coach Phil Lundin said. “They showed a lot of energy and a lot of enthusiasm, and you know someday that they’re going to achieve.”

Senior Travis Brandstatter won the 60-meter hurdles and the long jump, while senior Andy Tilstra provisionally qualified himself for the NCAA Indoor Championships with a weight throw mark of 63 feet, 4 inches.