Track teams hoping for upper-division finishes

Though the snow is almost gone, the women’s Big Ten indoor track and field championships will remain under the roof of the Fieldhouse this weekend.
But, as coach Gary Wilson said, it might be better off for Minnesota if the event were held outside.
“We’re an outdoors team; we’ve always been an outdoors team,” Wilson said.
Last season the Gophers finished seventh at the indoor championships and third at the outdoors.
And for Minnesota, the chance to host the event gives the Gophers incentive to improve on last year’s performance. Although the team may not be a threat to win the meet, Wilson said Minnesota has many individuals other teams will have their eyes on.
Senior Christine Gulbrandsen won the triple jump in 1999, and junior Aubrey Schmitt placed first in the shot put. Both will be looking to repeat this season.
As for the team competition, the field of opponents is strong, led by Michigan. The Wolverines are looking to three-peat this weekend as indoor champs.
While he’s not expecting to win, Wilson expects a good showing by his Gophers.
“If we can score over 70 points, that should put us in the top five,” Wilson said.
But regardless of this weekend’s results, the Gophers will use the meet as preparation for the outdoor season.
Wilson said he thinks Minnesota has a good chance to win the Big Ten outdoors and his team can’t wait until outdoor season.
“The kids are chomping on the bit to get outside,” he said.

Men’s Track and Field
After winning the 1998 indoor championships, the men’s track and field team took last year off, finishing third.
This weekend, the Gophers are in Bloomington, Ind., in hopes of returning to the top of the podium.
Minnesota was stricken with illness and injuries in 1999, but will be ready in full force come Saturday.
But it’s a much different squad from the championship team two years ago, and coach Phil Lundin said you can’t help but notice their youth.
“All we have to do is mention our 16 freshman and sophomores we’re sending (to Big Tens),” Lundin said. “We’re young, but we have lots of possibilities.”
The youth is balanced with key veterans like junior Marc Johannsen and senior Eric Pierce.
Johannsen, a high jumper, placed second at the 1999 Big Ten outdoor championships. Now he’s looking to show his stuff at the indoors.
Pierce was the 1999 Big Ten outdoor champion in the 3000 steeplechase.
A third Gopher, sophomore Andrew McKessock, has won races in the 800, the 3000 and the mile this season.
Although Minnesota is strong in many events, Lundin said Wisconsin is the front-runner at this year’s championships, and it’s the Badgers’ meet to lose because they are so strong in so many areas.
As for the Gophers, Lundin expects an upper division finish. But for that to happen, he said the youth will have to have results which match their potential.
“The catch word is step up,” Lundin said. “So many times before the young guys surprise everybody. But their first Big Ten championships can be rather daunting.”

John R. Carter welcomes comments at [email protected]