Women’s track comes together in the midst of difficult season

by Jim Schortemeyer

The Gophers women’s track and field team started off on the right foot and never looked back in Saturday’s Minnesota Classic at the Bierman Track and Field Stadium. It was something of a new experience for the women, who have struggled all year.
This weekend was one of Minnesota’s best showings in recent memory, thanks to strong performances and weak competition. The team has suffered from injuries and other losses all year, a fact its members are well aware of.
“Our team seems to be getting a bit smaller every day,” runner Deborah Hudleston said.
Results from the weekend were hampered by the drab weather on Saturday, which at times caused puddles of water to collect on the track.
During the gray, drizzly morning, Nicole Chimko got Minnesota going with a win in the javelin, tossing it more than 170 feet. Chimko’s mark was yet another NCAA provisional qualifier for the sophomore, who has qualified in both the javelin and shot put this year.
Aubrey Schmitt turned in yet another fine performance in the shot put. Schmitt put the shot 50 6-1/4, good for a provisional qualification, and the third-best throw in Minnesota history.
Junior Yvette White showed no signs of rust in her first competitive runs in Minnesota in more than two months. White ran on the 4×100-meter relay team which placed second, and ran her season-best in the 100-meter hurdles.
The meet had most of the team together in competition for the first time in several weeks. White, who finished third in the 400-meter hurdles at last year’s Big Ten Championships, was happy with the homecoming.
“It’s nice having the team here,” White said. “They give you that little extra boost of energy.”
Minnesota head coach Gary Wilson was also happy with White, who he affectionately calls “Tweety” because of her legs’ resemblance to those of the cartoon character. Those legs carried her to a time of 14.12 in the 100 hurdles.
“Tweety is really coming in the hurdles,” Wilson said. “By Big Tens she’ll be running 13.8 (seconds).”
The distance runners also had a solid weekend. Elaine Eggleston took first place in the 1,500 meters, and Hudleston took first in the 5,000. It was Hudleston’s first win and her first college track race because she skipped this winter’s indoor season.
Minnesota’s rag-tag group had finishers between first and third place in every event they entered. Results like that weren’t a huge surprise, considering the competition consisted mainly of Division III schools from around the Twin Cities.
Not all of Minnesota’s top competitors were in action this weekend. Minna Harojona, a talented distance runner, and jumping specialist Christine Gulbrandsen were noticeably absent. Neither athlete was injured; rather, both were taking the weekend off from serious competition.
Wilson has repeatedly explained that this year’s track team is a building block to next year’s team, which he says he’s the most excited about in his 13-year career at Minnesota.
As for this year, Wilson has thrown the team championship concept out the window. Instead, coaches are focusing on each athlete’s performance.
“We’re just trying to fine tune things,” Wilson said. “We really try to cater to the individual needs of a kid.”