Career sprinting to an end

by Tyler Rushmeyer

A typical goal of a senior is to go out on top.

Sprinter Aaron Buzard’s objective is no different. After dropping the 400-meter dash by less than three-tenths of a second at this year’s NCAA Indoor Championships, the four-time All-American is on a mission to finish his collegiate career with a title to his name.

Heading into the outdoor season, the senior said coming up just short will play a big factor in his drive to get to the top.

“It’s a big motivation. It just shows me what I need to do to get where I want to be,” he said. “Train harder. Come into the meet more focused and find that extra drive.”

Clocking a time of 45.86 seconds in the 400-meter dash, Buzard set another school record at this year’s NCAA Indoor Championships and continues his role as the team’s leader.

This leadership role is something that he said he takes pride in.

“I just try to make all the younger guys better,” he said. “I really enjoy my role and it’s an honor to lead these guys.”

For sophomore Ibrahim Kabia, having a strong leader like Buzard on the squad is invaluable.

Kabia made his first trip to the NCAA Championships during the indoor season and earned All-American status for the first time in his young career after taking fifth in the 60-meter dash.

He said Buzard’s presence at the meet was important for his nerves.

“It was so exciting. I really didn’t know what to expect, or how to prepare and stay calm,” Kabia said. “I pretty much followed him around. It’s just exciting to see him run.”

For Buzard, the goal has always been to take home an individual NCAA title, but even after coming up just short at the indoor meet, he said the more important goal is for the team to seize the Big Ten crown, something that has eluded him throughout his career.

“Obviously, a national championship for myself is a huge goal,” he said. “But I think it is even harder to accomplish the goal of a Big Ten team title.”

The last time Minnesota captured the Big Ten title was at the 2003 Outdoor Championships. At the time, Buzard was busy taking home his second state title in the 400-meter dash as a senior at Rochester Mayo High School.

Senior Jason Erickson, who has now run with Buzard for four years at the University, said no matter where his fellow senior or the team finishes this season, the mark that Buzard has left at Minnesota is an important one.

“He’s really helped bring more national recognition to our program,” Erickson said. “This obviously will help in landing mid-distance recruits.”

Buzard said the most important thing for him to continue before his career ends at the University is to play a role in the development of younger athletes in the program so they can be even better than he has been.

“Once I’m gone, someone will need to step in,” he said. “What I want to do is give them the ability to do so and excel.”

For Kabia, it seems that this will be much easier said than done for Buzard’s successor.

“He’s set the bar very high for the next in line and that’s important,” he said. “Whoever takes his place will have big shoes to fill.”