Despite resting runners, women take third

Matt Anderson

Minnesota’s women’s track and field team came into this weekend’s Big Ten Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships giving some runners rest and looking toward the outdoor season.

Even so, the Gophers took third at the championships in Madison, Wis., finishing with 104.83 points, behind first-place Michigan, which had 126.67 points. Illinois took second with 112 points.

Minnesota’s 104.83 points set a school record for points scored at the conference indoor meet. Third place tied Minnesota for its best finish ever at the Big Ten indoor meet. The Gophers took third last season, and also placed third in 2000.

“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” coach Gary Wilson said. “They really did an awesome job.”

Sophomore Liz Roehrig won her second Big Ten Indoor heptathlon championship in a row Saturday. She scored 3,983 points, barely outdistancing Michigan’s Bettie Wade, who scored 3,977.

“She’s a competitor,” Wilson said. “She’s one of those kids – real even keel, goes in, does her job.”

The Gophers got their other individual championship from freshman sensation Heather Dorniden. Dorniden, the school-record holder in the 800 meters, won the 800 in a time of 2 minutes, 8.66 seconds.

Wilson said Dorniden’s win was especially meaningful because of longtime equipment manager Jack Johnson’s recent death.

“The thing that was really emotional for me,” Wilson said, “was she got done, and I walked over to her and she put her arms out, gave me a big hug, and said ‘That one was for Jack.’ So that was real fitting for the weekend.”

Dorniden agreed.

“In my heart, even before I raced, I was thinking that this was for Jack,” she said. “At his memorial on Sunday they were saying how he was really planning on coming to this meet. I hope that it would give it that much more meaning if I could do it for him.”

Dorniden’s win was all the more impressive because it came in her first Big Ten championships.

“It’s pretty phenomenal for a freshman to win a Big Ten Title like that,” Wilson said. “She was pretty much in control the whole way and just did a great job.”

For a team that was looking toward the outdoor season, a third-place finish at the indoor championships bodes well for the spring.

It even has Wilson talking about taking home the outdoor title come May.

“With the long hurdles, and with the 10,000, and steeplechase and things like that, I think we’re in really good shape,” Wilson said. “I think we’ve got a legitimate shot at the outdoor title.

“It’s not going to be easy because Illinois is very good outside, and so is Michigan, and so is Penn State. Let’s just put it this way: I’d rather be us than anybody else.”

Men take second

Minnesota’s men’s track and field team finished in second place with 94 points at the men’s indoor championships in Iowa City, Iowa, short of champion Wisconsin’s 124.5 points. This was the third time in the past four years the Gophers took second to Wisconsin.

Senior thrower Karl Erickson won the Big Ten title in the shot put with a winning toss of 63 feet, 7 3/4 inches.

Senior high jumper Kevin Netzer also took a championship. His jump of 7-1 1/2 was his best of the season. The Gophers tied for second in the high jump, with senior John Albert jumping 7-0 1/4.

Rounding out the first-place finishers for Minnesota was Trent Riter, who won the 800 in a time of 1:51.22.