Gophers prep for Big Tens with home meet

by Allison Younge

As the men’s and women’s Gophers track and field teams close in on the two-week final stretch before Big Tens, coaches and athletes alike are feeling the effects of a tough season.
This weekend Minnesota will play host to men’s and women’s meets at the Bierman Track and Field Stadium. The Gophers will work for sharp performances in selected events — competitive training for the upcoming tournaments.
Minnesota Open
Four of the Gophers discus throwers will contest for first-place honors at Saturday’s women’s Minnesota Open meet. Dani Parkos, the Big Ten champion in 1995, will throw in hopes of gaining automatic qualifying standards in the discus. Parkos has provisionally qualified in both the discus and the shot put.
Joining Parkos in the event will be teammates Tina McDonald, Nicole Chimko and Gophers redshirt freshmen Brenda Meyer and Aubrey Schmitt. Meyer and Schmitt will compete as unattached athletes, meaning that their scores will not be added to Minnesota’s total team score.
The Gophers’ main goal at the invitational is to sharpen their skills by doing events that offer minimal stress to their bodies.
“We need these kids to be emotionally and physically rested so they can perform at their best in the Big Ten meet,” Gophers coach Gary Wilson said. “It’s a time to close the ranks and get things in order.”
Minnesota Maroon and Gold Open
The 1,500-meter race will be the featured event at this weekend’s men’s Minnesota Maroon and Gold Open. Paul McMullen, the top mile-runner in the United States, will compete as an open-entry athlete. McMullen won the 1,500 at the 1996 Olympic Trials and made it to the Olympic semifinal round in Atlanta last summer.
McMullen will be joined by former Gopher Paul Michalek in the 1,500. Michalek took second at the 1996 Big Ten outdoor championships. He then went on to finish sixth in the 1,500 at the NCAA championships, clocking a 3:39.94 and earning All-America honors.
The majority of the Gophers squad will compete at home on Saturday, however four of Minnesota’s top point scorers will travel west to compete in selected meets.
Pole vaulters Tye Harvey and Vesa Rantanen will compete at the Modesto Relays in Sacramento, Calif., on Saturday. Harvey and Rantanen have already automatically qualified for the NCAA championships, which will be held in Bloomington, Ind., June 4-7. Rantanen, a sophomore, was recently named Big Ten Track and Field Athlete of the Month for April. He holds the outdoor school record in the pole vault with a mark of 18 feet, 5-1/4 inches.
Distance runner Rick Obleman and high jumper Staffan Strand will travel to Portland, Ore., to compete in the Adidas Oregon Classic. Obleman, a senior, will run in the 3,000 steeplechase in hopes of reaching NCAA qualifying standards. Strand, a freshman, will look to improve on his NCAA automatic qualifying mark of 7-4 1/2 inches set at the Texas Relays (Austin, Tex.) on April 5.
The men’s and women’s meets are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Saturday at Bierman.