Gophers running strong at NCAA Championships

After a strong start to the NCAA Championships, Minnesota hopes to keep the success coming as they enter the final days of competition.

Minnesota met the first two days of the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships with many career-bests despite some unfortunate luck. In the first day of competition, junior Aaron Studt qualified for finals in shot put, launching a 60 foot-5 ¾ inch throw. “We’re happy to have him come through and get to the final. He’s in position to go after it,âÄù head coach Steve Plasencia said following his qualification. âÄúWeâÄôll see what he can do; see what kind of standard he sets for himself.âÄù Studt went on to throw a career best 63-2 ¾ in the finals, and was awarded his first outdoor All-America honor after finishing fifth. He improved his No. 3 rank in school history and became a two-time All-American in the event, earning the 2009 indoor title as well. Matt Fisher also competed on the first day, clearing the opening height of 6-8 ¾ in high jump. On his second attempt at 6-10 ¾, he injured his left ankle, forcing him to withdraw from competition. “If he jumped well here we were considering sending him off to the USA Nationals,âÄù Plasencia said. “It’s unfortunate because he was tied for the top mark in the country going into this competition so certainly it was a bit of a blow to our efforts here.” Plasencia said with the season being over, Fisher’s job will be to rest his ankle and work on recovering. Fisher will get treatment when he gets back to Minneapolis, but for now he is on crutches and medication. Junior R.J. McGinnis was also affected by an injury during one of the final events of the decathlon. On the first day of competition McGinnis had a career-best in the 100 meters with a time of 11.09 seconds, as well as in the high jump, clearing 6-8 ¾. A calf cramp in the 400 meters slightly brought him down in the rankings early on, but it was his javelin throw of 133-7 that dropped him out of All-America contention. After injuring his elbow at the Big Ten Championships, the throw was far from his career-best of 195-0. McGinnis finished out the decathlon in 17th place with 7,294 points. Other Gophers had unfortunate luck when a three-hour weather delay pushed the final events of day one late into the night. Despite this delay, Alicia Rue qualified for the pole vault final after clearing a career-best of 13-5 1/4. Hassan MeadâÄôs 5,000-meter race did not go off until 1 a.m., but he clocked a time of 14:00.79 to win his heat and advance to finals. While Mead said he is used to late night runs, this was the latest he had ever raced. He kept his focus throughout the race though the crowd had dwindled. “It was a thing that everyone was facing so you just have to stay relaxed,âÄù Mead said. âÄúYou should stay off your feet and rest up. You don’t want to run around and wear yourself out too much.âÄù Minnesota had several other great runs during the first two days of competition. Heather Dorniden easily qualified for the semifinals of the 800 where she ran a season-best of 2:03.77, further advancing her to finals on Saturday. Elizabeth Yetzer made a strong first appearance at the NCAA Championships in the 1,500. Shaving more than six seconds off her best time, Yetzer clocked a time of 4:18.11 and narrowly missed qualifying for finals. “[We’re] very pleased for her; she had a huge breakthrough there,” head coach Matt Bingle said. “She was more relaxed because there was really no pressure. Nothing was expected of her, just to go out and do the best she could and fight.âÄù Junior-to-be Ben Blankenship was also a newcomer to the NCAA Championships and ran the 1,500 in a personal best of 3:42.47. It was the fifth-best time in school history and landed him 14th overall in the qualifying round. In the heptathlon, senior Liz Roehrig sits in second place after the first day of events, scoring 3,651 points. This was her best first day score of her career. She currently trails Nia Ali of USC by 12 points. After the first two days of competition, Bingle is optimistic about the final stretch of the meet. “Everyone is still pretty pumped and everything is going well. At this point we couldn’t have had a better meet,” he said.