Gophers seek to meet even when not at the same one

by David McCoy

It’s interesting that a track and field competition is called a meet.

In the case of Minnesota’s men’s track and field team, the team is doing anything but that this season.

Every week of the outdoor season, members of the Gophers will be going their separate ways as the team splits up for individualized competitions.

And while the team always has divided the roster in the past, it is doing so much more this season.

“Usually you spend a lot of time together with the guys traveling, but this year’s a little different,” senior sprinter and long jumper Andrew Newman said. “I think it has its benefits because you can get more event-specific competition at certain meets. But at the same time, you miss out on the camaraderie.”

Last outdoor season coach Phil Lundin twice sent members of the team to different events.

The rest of this season, Minnesota will send people different places every weekend (five times) until the Big Ten Championships.

To make up for the lesser degree of team unity, the Gophers have had more teambuilding get-togethers than they did last year, Newman said.

“We’ve been doing a lot more things as far as team meals and stuff like that than we have in the past,” Newman said, “to help the team gel.”

The team held a team meal and softball game in the fall, he said, as a fun way to build chemistry.

“It’s always funny to see the 160-pound distance guys versus the 240-pound thrower doing something together,” Newman said.

He remembers one event vividly.

“There was actually a popped ball hit up, and Pete (Miller) – he’s a thrower and probably outweighs me like 60 pounds – I was like, ‘I got it,’ and came running for it,” Newman said. “He obviously didn’t listen and we just collided. I took the brunt of the hit, obviously. It hurt but it was fun and everyone has laughs about it.”

But while the team is gelling together by having fun off the field, Lundin said Saturday’s meet, the Pepsi Team Invitational in Eugene, Ore., will help the team come together as well.

Four teams will compete against the Gophers – Boise State, Oregon, Penn State and Washington.

Because the meet is a team-scored event, and because most of the team will be there, there’s a team element there that Lundin said he hopes will carry through all the separate competitions this season.

“There’s a congealing, a bringing together of the team,” Lundin said. “We’re always focusing so much on the individual, because if the individual shines, the team shines.

“But in many cases you’ve got a competition like this weekend where a kid that may never score a point in the Big Ten or may never score in the regionals could score some points for the team. So it’s kind of refreshing and gives everybody a different look, a different feel.”

Some members won’t be going because they haven’t trained enough yet or are dealing with injury, Lundin said. He also said Aaron Buzard’s status is still up in the air as the team waits for MRI results on his injured foot.

Other members of the team will stay home for the Hamline Open on Saturday. But while they’ll be separate for a while, the Gophers will come together at the end of the season, when it matters most.

“I think the reason the coaches split us up like this is because we all want to come together and peak for the Big Ten,” senior John Albert said. “And for the Big Ten it’s so much easier to get pumped up for whatever event you have … You have a bunch of guys hanging around to watch your event, and you do the same for others. And I think it helps performances quite a bit when we’re all together.”