Men continue tune-ups for outdoor Big Ten meet

Also, women face tough competition as they head to the LSU alumni meet.

Derek Wetmore

The Gophers menâÄôs track and field team is set to compete in multiple meets this weekend. Several runners will head for Walnut, Calif., to compete in the Mt. Sac Relays on Saturday while other members of the team will compete this Friday in the St. Thomas Twilight. Assistant coach Paul Thornton said the Gophers will send Pieter Gagnon and Mike Torchia to the Mt. Sac meet to compete in the 10,000-meter run. About two dozen of the remaining athletes will compete in the St. Thomas Twilight, which Thornton called a âÄútune-up meet.âÄù âÄúOur goal throughout the outdoor season is to set ourselves up to compete well at the Big Ten [championships],âÄù Thornton said. âÄúOur program has been predicated for so many years off of placing high at the Big Ten. Performing well at the last three Big Ten championships has put us on top.âÄù Thornton said that meets like the two this weekend are helpful in preparing for the upcoming schedule as it becomes more difficult. The season thus far might not be everything that Big Ten indoor champion Minnesota was expecting, but the athletes are not letting the first several weeks determine their future. Senior high jumper Matt Fisher said the team will use the weekend to clean up some of the problems that have been hindering the team in early season meets. âÄúWe know that itâÄôs early and we know that itâÄôs a process,âÄù Fisher said. âÄúEven though weâÄôve had a tough month or so, weâÄôre feeling good about where weâÄôre at right now.âÄù Fisher will not be competing this weekend due to minor knee injuries. He said that he hopes to return in time for the Drake Relays on April 21-24. Women competing in the LSU alumni meet The Gophers womenâÄôs track and field team is set to compete Friday and Saturday at the LSU Alumni Meet in Baton Rouge, La. This marks the first time ever that the Gophers womenâÄôs track and field team will compete in the event, which is primarily for sprinters and throwers. The Tigers have historically had a strong sprinting program, so the Gophers have a chance to see how they measure up in what will likely be a fast field. Minnesota did not perform as well as they would have liked in the indoor season, finishing 39th at the NCAAs , but the Gophers hope that the outdoor season brings better results. âÄúI feel like our season is going really well,âÄù senior runner Rikita Butler said. âÄúWeâÄôre all fighting for that outdoor championship, and for now, thatâÄôs all our focus is on.âÄù Two weekends ago, the team took second at the Jim Click Shootout in Arizona, and the team hopes that might be a sign of things to come. Butler said the womenâÄôs squad as a whole is still not in peak physical shape and is still working at this point in the season to reach its potential. âÄúWe always talk about taking it meet by meet and improving every week,âÄù Butler said. Butler also said that the team is focusing to keep the mood light and that the consensus at practice is that the women are âÄúenergizedâÄù to compete and improve. Those sentiments are especially prevalent with the sprint group, according to Butler, who hopes to compete well in a competitive field this weekend at LSU as the Gophers hope to prove they are better than their indoor finish.