Women will rest runners at Big Ten Indoor meet this weekend in Madison

Heather Dorniden and Emily Brown will run in just two events.

David McCoy

It’s the Big Ten Championship meet, but Minnesota’s women’s track and field team is taking it easy.

The 21st-ranked Gophers have a legitimate shot at the Big Ten Indoor Championship title ‘ maybe their best in years ‘ when they compete Saturday and Sunday in Madison, Wis.

Coach Gary Wilson is resting some of his best runners in some of their events.

It’s Wilson’s yearly strategy to save their legs for the Outdoor Championships later this season.

“It’s kind of like the rabbit and the turtle,” Wilson said. “You just try to go a little more intelligently through the middle part of your winter so that you’ve got gas in your tank at the end. I’ve seen coaches take their kids right out of it. They’re great in April. And then you see them go right off the edge in May.”

Instead of running all of their events, Heather Dorniden only will run the 800 meters and the 4-by-400 meter relay, Emily Brown only will run the mile and the 3,000 meters, and Jamie Cheever only will run the mile.

The Gophers’ distance medley relay team of Dorniden, Brown, Cheever and Kadian Douglas, which shattered Minnesota’s school record by nearly 25 seconds earlier this year, also will not run.

But Wilson still feels good about the relay unit he’s sending in their place. He said that even without their guns blazing he still thinks it’ll be in the top three.

The Gophers are an even better outdoor team because they excel in outdoor-only events like the javelin and hammer throw, and also will have the services of Big Ten Outdoor freshman of the year Liz Podominick, who doesn’t compete indoors because of her role on the Gophers women’s basketball team.

And for that, Wilson would hate to burn out his runners in the indoor season. He’s seen it happen before.

“I think a lot of teams, they load it up indoors and then they’re not there outdoors because they’re hurt,” Wilson said. “Ohio State is notorious for that. They ride people pretty hard this time of year and then all the sudden they’re not there in the outdoor season. We really try to be a little bit smarter.”

And Wilson’s athletes are fine with the outdoor focus. In fact, they prefer it.

“Outdoor just seems more real, more engaging,” sophomore runner Ladia Albertson-Junkans said. “Because the men are there, the women are there, it’s this huge kind of festival. It’s a big deal to our school; it’s a big deal to runners in general. I like outdoor better, I think most people do.”

The men’s team also is more focused on the outdoor meet, but that isn’t stopping a pair of throwers from going after greatness this weekend in Iowa City, Iowa.

Adam Schnaible, who set the school record this season in the weight throw, is the favorite to win that event this weekend, despite the fact that he didn’t practice at all this week because of back pain.

But he doesn’t think that will hamper him at all.

“Last weekend (at the Snowshoe Open) when I had the other personal-best throw, I had a sore back as well,” Schnaible said.

Teammate and four-time All-American Karl Erickson is also the favorite in the shot put.

And after missing all of last year because of knee surgery, the senior won’t settle for anything less than a win in his final Big Ten Indoor Championships.

“Even in the smaller meets earlier in the year when I took second place, I was devastated,” Erickson said. “It was kind of embarrassing to be a fifth-year senior and not win.”