Women’s track, CC teams look to lead Big Ten pack

Jim Schortemeyer

Minnesota coach Gary Wilson’s two teams — the women’s cross country and track and field teams — were a study in contrasts last season.
After the high of the cross country team’s lowest-ever point total at the Big Ten championships, the Gophers fell to the lows of the track and field season.
While the cross country team was ranked 22nd in the nation last season, the track team struggled to a seventh-place finish at both the indoor and outdoor Big Ten championships.

Cross Country
The cross country team’s third-place finish at the championships tied Wilson’s best result in his 12-year tenure at Minnesota. The runners were led by Daphne Panhuysen and Anna Gullingsrud, who finished 12th and 10th respectively at the Big Ten championships.
But it will be difficult to lead the team this year. Both Panhuysen and Gullingsrud transferred from Minnesota. Gullingsrud was encouraged by coaches to leave, while Panhuysen is moving to her third university.
What the Gophers are left with is a near-equal in talent group of young runners, headed by Corrine Nimitz and Minna Haronoja. Nimitz placed fifth in the 10,000-meter run at last spring’s Big Ten championships in track, while Haronoja is expected to be a leader on both the cross country and track teams.
Nimitz’s placement at the championships came as a little surprise to Wilson, who expects more from her this year.
“I see that as a big confidence boost for her,” Wilson said.
“(Wilson) said that I’ll probably be in the top-15 at the cross country championships,” Nimitz said.
For team results, Minnesota’s chances for improvement on last year’s result are slim.
Though team champion Wisconsin lost its top runner to graduation, they remain a powerhouse in the making. The Gophers expect to place five runners from 12th to 22nd, but Wilson thinks they’ll have a tough time moving up in the standings.
“I think the top four teams will be the same, but the order of finish may be a little different,” Wilson said.
Track and Field
Although Wilson is spending most of his time preparing for the cross country season, he has been looking forward to this year’s track season since last spring.
“I don’t remember the last time I was this excited for a group,” Wilson said.
The reasons for Wilson’s excitement are varied, but his faith in new sprints coach Sydney Cartwright appears to be at the top of the list.
Cartwright earned rave reviews from Wilson, and returning senior Yvette White is happy with the way things are setting up for next year.
“I think we’re going to be real good,” White said. “(Cartwright) explains why we do things in our workouts, and that’s good. It’s something we didn’t have before.”
Seniors are something Wilson had very few of last year. The Gophers graduated just four seniors, none of whom earned a point for Minnesota at the outdoor Big Ten championships.
Wilson understands that those four seniors may feel left out if the young women they helped develop go on to Big Ten success.
“I told the four seniors who graduated that if we win a Big Ten championship, I’ll buy them a ring out of my own pocket,” Wilson said.
Some of those young women have already shown the poise of a veteran. In particular, the throwers had an impressive winter and spring season.
At the outdoor championships, then-sophomore Nicole Chimko and freshman Aubrey Schmitt swept the javelin, shot-put and discus championships.
And the rich are getting richer.
Finnish athlete Linda Lindqvist will be joining the Gophers in January, and she brings a solid list of credentials. Lindqvist placed sixth in the world in the javelin at the junior championships this summer, and then placed third in the Finnish senior nationals.
And her throws already equal those of Chimko, who finished third at the NCAA championships in the javelin last spring.
The extra help can only help Minnesota in its title runs in the upcoming years. The return of most of his runners — almost none of whom are in their senior year — and the strength of the throwers has Wilson excited about the next two track seasons.
“The kids in this program have continuously seen us be a third, fourth, or fifth place team, but we’ve never been first or second,” Wilson said. “I think I hear they want to win a Big Ten championship.”