Men seize chance to qualify for NCAAs

The women’s team failed to improve any of their marks over the weekend.

by Megan Ryan

The Gophers men’s and women’s track and field teams had one last chance to qualify for the NCAA indoor championships next weekend.

The men took advantage of the opportunity, but the women struggled to improve their marks.

Official qualifiers will be announced early this week. Usually the top 16 in individual events and top 12 in relays compete at nationals.

The Gophers men’s distance medley relay finished fifth at the Alex Wilson Invitational in South Bend, Ind. They were ranked No. 12 heading into the event.

Minnesota’s relay of seniors Travis Burkstrand, Cameron Boy, Harun Abda and Nick Hutton ran 9:29.22 to break the school record and solidify its NCAA spot.

Hutton said his relay knew it had to run at least 9:30 to secure its qualification. The athletes broke down each leg and set individual time goals.

“It was pretty much exactly how we scripted it,” Hutton said.

Junior John Simons ran the second sub-four minute mile in Gophers history at the Alex Wilson Invitational, finishing third with a time 3:59.32.

Simons ranks No. 21 in the nation and has an “outside chance” of making the championships, head coach Steve Plasencia said.

Sophomore Justin Barber is in a similar situation. Barber won the weight throw at the Iowa State Qualifier with a distance of 20.46 meters. While his teammates senior Micah Hegerle and junior Jon Lehman are in qualifying position, Barber ranks just outside the top 16.

Senior Sean King also ran in the 60-meter dash but did not improve his time. He is also on the verge of qualifying.

The Gophers are also expected to qualify their 4×400-meter relay and Abda in the 800-meter run.

While the men have several concrete qualifiers, the women are in a less comfortable position.

“At this point it looks like there’ll be no one at nationals,” head coach Matt Bingle said. “Unless someone scratches … we’re not going to have anybody there.”

Several athletes had national rankings in their events before the Alex Wilson Invitational but all failed to improve their marks.

Bingle pulled junior Te’Shon Adderley from competition in the 800 because she had a tight hamstring during warm-ups.

Adderley now ranks No. 25 in the 800, and her teammate senior Alena Brooks ranks No. 22. Senior Todea-Kay Willis is No. 18 in the long jump.

Senior Kylie Peterson finished fourth in the 60. Bingle said Brooks, Willis and Peterson could not “take care of business.”

“Any time you go to a last chance meet, it is definitely more pressurized,” Bingle said. “When you’re just doing it for you and you’re not doing it for your team, it creates a different vibe.”