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Minnesota struggles at Tiger Track Classic

Senior Aaron Buzard won the 400-meter dash title with a time of 46.57 seconds.

The Minnesota men’s track and field team struggled to overcome unexpected cold weather while competing in the Tiger Track Classic in Auburn, Ala. on Saturday.

The Gophers have had to travel to warmer destinations to compete because of the frigid Midwest temperatures, however, they might as well have stayed home this weekend.

“We kind of expect it to be nice down there,” senior Aaron Buzard said. “The average is in the 70s, but when it came down to the day of the meet it was more like 45 or 50 (degrees).”

Below average temperatures and swirling winds didn’t help some of the Minnesota athletes who were competing for the first time outdoors.

Coach Phil Lundin said it was the first time the pole vaulters had competed outdoors besides once in Georgia, and that has made it difficult for the men to get into the swing of things for the outdoor season.

“Being in our part of the country hasn’t helped us a lot in regards to adjusting or transitioning to the outdoor season,” Lundin said.

Going into the meet, the team was optimistic of bringing home NCAA Midwest Regional qualifying marks and getting some good races under its belt. But Lundin said few of the Gophers actually did that.

“Other than a few guys, the performances were not very sterling,” he said.

Two Gophers who did reach their potential this weekend were Buzard and senior Derek Gearman.

In his first meet of the outdoor season, Buzard won the 400-meter dash title in 46.57 seconds – qualifying him for the regional championships.

Buzard said he thought it was a good opener for himself and was happy to get the qualifying mark out of the way.

“It was good,” he said. “I just wanted to run a relaxed race and not really push too much and try to battle the elements.”

Of the Minnesota jumpers, Gearman continued his qualifying streak, adding on a second mark in two weeks.

Last week in Texas, Gearman qualified in the triple jump event, and this weekend he got the long jump out of the way as well.

Gearman said he was really happy with his distance of 24-9 because it is his third-best jump of all time.

Gearman will tackle the high jump event next, and said that competing in one jump at each meet seems to be the best strategy for success later in the season.

“These first couple meets, I’m just doing one of the individual jumping events and just trying to get those regional qualifying marks out of the way,” he said. “So, then I can just kind of focus on Big Tens when we get there.”

Lundin said that he was pleased with the performances by Buzard and Gearman, but that there was no question in his mind that they would do well.

“Those guys had good days, but then again, we expect that from them,” Lundin said.

For much of the rest of the team, Lundin said the men did not compete really well.

“The rest of the efforts were, I guess, early-season-like,” he said.

Although Lundin said the weather was a factor in their performances, he also said it is a normal occurrence for the team to be struggling at this time of year.

“It just seems that the transition from indoor to outdoor can take some time,” Lundin said. “Things will come around. I’m not giving up on the guys or anything of that sort.”

Lundin said that lightening up on training might provide better results in the coming weeks, but realizes the season is short.

“We need to be patient, but step it up a little bit too, especially since the Big Tens (are) only five weeks out.”

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