Women’s track sends 3 to NCAAs

Jeff Colaizy

The Gophers women’s track and field team will be sending a familiar face and two newcomers to the NCAA championships today in Indianapolis.
Throwers Aubrey Schmitt and Beth Howard will join distance runner Corrine Nimtz in the championships at Indiana.
Coach Gary Wilson says it’s a reasonable goal to come away from Indianapolis with three All-Americans. Athletes have to place in the top eight to earn that status.
Schmitt will be competing in her third-straight NCAA indoor championship in the shot put. She took second last year in the shot put with a throw of 54-feet 4-inches. She will also be making her first appearance in the weight throw.
Schmitt said a national title is not out of her reach but a solid placement would be satisfying for her.
“I would love to place in the top eight,” Schmitt said. “I just want to relax and hopefully throw far.”
Schmitt qualified in February with a provisional effort of 52-0, which ranks her 14th nationally. She is currently ranked 14th in the weight throw.
Howard, the Big Ten champion in the weight throw, holds the seventh seed entering her first NCAA championship meet. She said she believes that she can match her throw from the Big Ten meet, if not beat it.
“My goal is to do at least what I am ranked,” Howard said. “I have never competed at the national level before, but I am certainly going to go out there and do the best that I can.”
Wilson says that Schmitt and Howard are very capable of competing with the nation’s best.
“They both have got very legitimate chances to be All-Americans,” Wilson said. “It only takes one throw.”
Minnesota’s other top chance at All-America status is Nimtz, a junior, who qualified last weekend in Ames, Iowa, with a school-record time in the 5,000-meter run. Nimtz’s time ranks eighth nationally (best in the Big Ten), putting her in a good position to finish in the top eight.
“I am really excited and glad that I made it,” Nimtz said. “I hope to have a good experience at the national meet and place as high as I can.”

Men’s track
In one of track and field’s glamour events, the mile run, the Minnesota men’s team will be sending its lone qualifier to Arkansas for the NCAA championships.
Andrew McKessock, a sophomore from Owen Sound, Ontario, qualified with his provisional time of 4:02:56 back in early February. His goal for the weekend is to make it to Saturday’s final.
He believes a time under four minutes can get him there.
“It’s the first time I’ve qualified, it will give me a lot of experience for the upcoming year.” McKessock said.
Distance coach Steve Plasencia said McKessock is among the nation’s best and believes an appearance in the final would be a great achievement.
“To be able to go out in the national championship and compete in that field as a sophomore is a great accomplishment and really speaks highly for what Andrew can accomplish … we’re excited,” Plasencia said.