Parkos battles indifference, flood in return to Gophers

by Susan Filkins

Last weekend senior thrower Dani Parkos was in Walnut, Calif., with the rest of the Gopher women’s track and field team competing in the Mt. SAC Relays. Even though Parkos was at the meet physically, her mind was elsewhere.
Parkos, a native of Grand Forks, N.D., was more concerned about her family members, who along with almost the entire city, were forced to evacuate their homes.
For a while it appeared the residents of Grand Forks would be able to fight off the raging waters of the Red River. But the situation got worse for everyone, including Parkos’ family.
“I thought everything was going to be OK,” Parkos said. “My friends and family seemed to be OK, and then (last) Thursday night things really started to go downhill and got worse as the weekend went on.”
When Parkos arrived back in Minneapolis Sunday night, she told her coaches she had to go home.
Her family had moved to Fargo after leaving its now-submerged house behind. Despite the devastation her family is experiencing, Parkos decided to fly back from Fargo Wednesday morning to practice in preparation for the Drake Relays, which begin today in Des Moines, Iowa.
“I am doing a lot better now, knowing and figuring out what my family is going to be doing for a month and a half,” Parkos said. “But, I have a season left, and being that it is my senior year it’s real hard. I need to take care of my family, but I have to finish business here.”
Parkos said she hopes to pick up where she left off two years ago.
In 1995 she won the Big Ten championship in the discus with a throw of 166 feet, 4 inches. Her throw was good enough for the fourth-best in Minnesota history. In the same year, she took third in the shot put. Advancing to the NCAA championships that year, she finished 12th nationally in the discus.
With expectations riding high following her stellar junior season, Parkos reached a stage in her career where she began to question what was left for her in the sport. That resulted in a decision to take a year off.
“It was almost like a real lull,” she said. “It was hard for me to make any gains, so I decided to take a year off and train my body a little differently. I trained so hard for so long that there was just no movement.”
Even though Parkos was listed as a redshirt for the 1995-96 season, she was still training in hopes of qualifying for the Olympics.
After failing to qualify for the Olympic trials in the discus, she managed to shake off the disappointment and return for her final season at Minnesota.
“I felt like I had wasted a year and let my coaches down,” Parkos said. “But I was bound and determined that this is it for me. This year and my whole outlook on things has totally changed.”
Parkos is taking things day by day. This season she plans to bring home another Big Ten title in the discus. She also said winning the Big Ten championship in the shot put would be an extra bonus.
Currently, she is sitting on the bubble to qualify for the NCAA championships in these events, but she intends to make it to nationals and become an All-American before leaving Minnesota.
As far as making another run at the Olympics goes, Parkos said she does not foresee it happening. When she throws for the last time in a Gophers uniform, she simply wants to take a break and finish her master’s degree in physical education.
“I just want to leave here with out a bad taste in my mouth and know that I did everything I could, and so far I think I’ve done that,” she said. “I have been doing everything they’ve asked, and I guess that’s all I can do.”