Women’s track heating up early in outdoor season

Brian Hall

While most people enjoy the warm weather Minnesota has been presented with the past few days, the sunshine means it is time to get to work for Minnesota’s women’s track and field teams.

Coach Gary Wilson spent Tuesday plowing the snow off the Bierman track so his team could practice outside, work that is pivotal considering the Gophers opened their outdoor season last weekend.

Minnesota participated in the Texas Southern Relays and showed it will be a force in the outdoor season.

“We are still recovering from the indoor season,” Wilson said. “We are never as strong indoors as we are outdoors. Right now, every meet helps us improve a little bit. Going south really helped.”

While in Texas the 4×100 team of Amber Day, Melissa Woltman, Shannaine Osbourne and Tahesia Harrigan broke the school record of 46.02 seconds.

First place finishes also included the 4×400 team of Day, Osbourne, Shani Marks and Allyson DeVries with a time of 3:48.63, Nicole Kopari in the discus and Darja Vasiljeva in the 3,000-meter run.

In the past few years, Minnesota has been led by a solid group of throwers. But the roles reversed this season. Many of the Gophers’ top throwers graduated and in their spots, younger athletes are working to fill the void.

In turn, the points this season are expected to come from assistant coach Sidney Cartwright’s group of sprinters, hurdlers and jumpers.

“Sidney is a heck of a coach,” Wilson said. “He has been tremendous in developing the runners, even the walk-ons.”

Leading the charge are the relay teams and the sprints of Harrigan.

Harrigan has been a star for the Gophers. In March, Harrigan earned All-American status while placing second in the 60-meter dash at the NCAA indoor championships. This will be the first outdoor season for the sophomore after she missed last year with injuries.

Overall, Wilson is pleased with the development of his squad and believes the team is right on track in preparing for its premier meets, the Big Ten and NCAA championships.

“The Mt. SAC Relays will be a benchmark for us,” Wilson said. “We will see then if we really are ready to go into the Big Ten. But, it also leaves us enough time to fix things that aren’t ready.”

The Mt. SAC Relays are April 20, with the conference championships May 17-19 and the NCAA’s the following weekend.

Facing a hurdle

Senior sprinter Jessica Shuster will be redshirting the outdoor season due to a stress fracture in her leg.

Schuster will retain eligibility to be used next season.

Freshman Lisa Dyer might also redshirt the outdoor season but Wilson hasn’t made a final decision regarding her availability.

Dyer is a highly touted distance runner for the Gophers but is fighting the usual aches and pains a freshman experiences, according to Wilson.

“With a talented kid like that,” Wilson said, “you just want to be careful.”

Brian Hall covers track and field and
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