Track teams post solid marks at Fieldhouse meets

Ben Goessling

Strong performances by freshman Robb Merritt and the 4×400-relay team marked a successful day for the Minnesota men’s track and field team in the Minnesota Invitational at the University Fieldhouse on Saturday.

Merritt broke the team’s freshman indoor record in the 200-meter dash with a time of 21.88 seconds, topping Chris Darkins’ mark of 22.09 seconds set in 1993.

“We knew Robb was capable of doing big things right away, so it’s not a surprise to me to see him do that well,” head coach Phil Lundin said. “He still has a ways to go to put himself at the top of the Big Ten, but I think he’s capable of doing that someday.”

The Gophers’ top 4×400 team finished with a time of 3:13.41, winning the event and missing a Fieldhouse record by just .07 of a second.

In the mile run, sophomore Neil Hanson led a group of four Gophers to four of the top five spots in the event.

Minnesota’s All-American decathlete Lyndon McDowell did not fare as well in the 60-meter hurdles, finishing eighth in a fast field.

In the field events, the Gophers’ lone victor was sophomore Lynden Reder, whose throw of 56 feet, 10 ¾ inches won the weight throw by nearly three feet.

“Since we are still training, I feel like we’re in a good place,” said Reder, who’s won the event two weeks in a row. “With the Big Ten (Indoor) Championships being here, there will be a lot of family and friends here, so it would be great to bring home a Big Ten championship.”

Women’s track and field

Sophomore runners Tahesia Harrigan and Elizabeth Woolford stood out for the Minnesota women’s track and field team at Saturday’s Minnesota Quad at the University Fieldhouse.

Harrigan won the 60 and 200-meter dashes and ran the second leg for the Gophers’ winning 4×400- relay team. Woolford won the 60-meter hurdles with a time of 8.99 seconds, 10th fastest in school history.

“Sid (assistant coach Sydney Cartwright) said a year ago that he could see that potential there,” said coach Gary Wilson of Woolford. “She’s a whole different athlete than she was a year ago.”

Harrigan, meanwhile, ran 7.42 seconds in the 60-meter dash and 24.86 seconds in the 200.

In the 600-meter dash, junior Shani Marks won in 1:35.10, and senior Jessica Schuster finished second with a time of 1:35.35.

Wilson said Marks, who is coming off back surgery last year, will be key to the Gophers’ season this year.

“I worry about her a little bit,” he said. “She’s the defending conference champion in the triple jump, so her health is a key in both of those events.”

Overall, Wilson said his team is probably in “B minus condition right now”, and that he is a little worried about field events.

The only highlights for the Gophers in field events were Erica Findlay’s win in the pole vault and Alean Frawley’s victory in the shot put. Otherwise, Minnesota managed no finish higher than fifth.

“We’ve got to replace a ton of points (from graduated athletes), but I think by the end of the year we’ll make very nice progress,” Wilson said. “We’ll be in the hunt for a top three-to-five finish (in the conference) indoors, and depending on how things go, we may be able to take a shot at the (Big Ten) title outside.”