U’s Potter eager to run at Drake

by Lou Raguse

On Saturday at the Carleton Relays, Minnesota senior sprinter Mitch Potter opened his outdoor track and field season with a 200-meter dash.

Potter said he was not necessarily supposed to try in the Division III meet, but rather use the competition to feel out his recovery from a foot injury.

A friend running for St. Thomas University told Potter to keep a 400-meter pace and just speed up when the Tommies runner came close to catching him.

But Potter still coasted to a first-place finish – all while jabbering with his pal for the last 100 meters.

“I was yelling at him, trying to get him to catch me,” Potter said. “But it was a good race, considering I didn’t try.”

Potter will use the Drake Relays this weekend as a return to all-out competition, as he did last season with breakout results.

Last year at Drake he stole the show by winning the 400-meter dash with a 45.16-second finish. That finish was, at the time, a new Gophers record and the second-best time nationally.

Afterwards, Potter further entertained the crowd by keeling over during his victory lap and vomiting as his name was announced.

Coach Phil Lundin said he looks forward to seeing that kind of intensity at the Drake Relays this year.

“It will be fun just to see him get out and light it up, because he’s such a fierce competitor,” Lundin said. “It’s good to have him rolling.”

This year will be Potter’s second Drake competition, as injuries always seem to dog him this time of year.

But teammates have seen Potter bounce back from injuries for four years now, and they don’t expect anything different in his senior season.

“He’s one of those guys who’s always with injury,” teammate Adam Steele said. “He’s fine right now. I’ve never seen him not compete.”

Steele said he’s also happy to have Potter back on the 4×400-meter relay squad – one of the Gophers’ strengths – that features seniors Potter, Steele, Mikael Jakobsson and sophomore Robb Merritt.

In Potter’s absence, freshman Aaron Buzard stepped in and impressed coaches and teammates.

Still, Potter’s explosiveness at the anchor is a boost the Gophers can use as they get into the meat of the outdoor season – whether he can keep his lunch.

“Mitch is a little stronger this year, so he won’t end up falling over and puking in front of the crowd,” Lundin said. “We’re hoping, at least, for a better post-race situation.”

Going the distance

The Gophers’ distance runners are hoping for big things, primarily in the relay races at the Drake Relays, distance coach Steve Plasencia said, as the following weekend’s Cardinal Invitational at Stanford is a bigger meet for the open distance races.

Plasencia said to keep a close eye on Minnesota’s 4×800-meter team of Ben Hanson, Martin Robeck, Trent Riter and Ryan Ford.

“I’m real excited for that 4×8,” Plasencia said. “We have a chance to set school records and win the race.”

Andrew Carlson, who is now 100 percent healthy, will compete in the 4×1600-meter relay at Drake.

Ben Hanson and Neil Hanson will each run the 1,500-meter open competition, while Josh DoBell and Antonio Vega will run the 5,000-meter open, and Michael Bialick the 10,000 meters.