Gophers excel in one of the final tuneups

by Grant Donald

With the outdoor Big Ten championships less than a couple weeks of away, women’s head coach Matt Bingle knew the Gophers needed to leave Iowa City, Iowa, this weekend with improved results.
Team members knew that was the case, Bingle said, and they competed with a sense of urgency throughout the events.
“It was nice seeing people dig for the finish line, trying to shave some time off of their best time,” Bingle said. “That type of dedication is contagious, and we will look to carry it right into the championship season.”
That dedication also allowed the Gophers to bring home six titles and record 18 career-best times or marks.
Leading the way was Minnesota’s relays. In both the 4×400-meter relay and the 4×100-meter relay, the Gophers proved to be too much to handle — winning both titles.
“That 4×400 team put together their fastest time of the year, so that is always good to see,” Bingle said. “We were able to hand [senior] Jess [Waldvogel] a lead heading into her anchor leg, and she will make sure she never gives that up.”
Although Waldvogel finished off the relay, sophomore Titania Markland gave the team the separation it needed for the victory, Bingle said.
Markland also finished second in the 400-meter dash. 
“I kind of used the momentum and excitement from the relay to carry me through the 400,” Markland said. “I look at the relay as almost practice for the 400 open since I know my teammates can help me out if I’m a little slow [on the relay].”
The Gophers’ only other title on the track came thanks to redshirt sophomore Haley Johnson, who finished first in the 1,500-meter run.
In the field events, however, Minnesota took home three more titles, including redshirt senior Devin Stanford’s hammer throw title.
“Devin is another person who threw a personal record and is continually improving,” Bingle said. “It’s great to see her peaking now because she can really do something special at Big Tens.”
The Gophers claimed other titles this weekend. Freshman Agnes Esser topped the discus, and sophomore Nicolle Murphy won the javelin.
Unattached Ali brings home only title
Although the women’s team experienced a wide range of successes, the men didn’t have the same good fortunes in Iowa.
Coaching staff say that doesn’t mean the team isn’t moving in the right direction.
“Ultimately, I’m very proud of the times and marks that our guys put together today,” head coach Steve Plasencia said. “I know they didn’t result in titles, but we now have something that we can work with these next couple of weeks.”
The one title that the Gophers did win came from a runner that wasn’t even sporting the team’s uniform.
Freshman Obsa Ali, who ran in Saturday’s meet unattached came away victorious in the 3,000-meter run.
“You could say we were a little surprised,” Plasencia said.