Gophers snag 4 titles at Drake Relays

The men won two longer relays and Ben Peterson won the pole vault, while the women took home the 4×1,600-meter crown.

Dane Mizutani

It seems as if the Drake Relays bring out the best in the Minnesota menâÄôs track and field team.

The Gophers have amassed more than 50 titles in the history of the prestigious meet, and their performance this weekend only enhanced that legacy.

MinnesotaâÄôs weekend was highlighted by its showing in the distance medley relay. Nick Hutton, Kevin Bradley, Travis Burkstrand and Hassan Mead placed first with a time of 9 minutes, 38.09 seconds. Mead paced the squad as the anchor of the relay.

âÄúWe know if we give Hassan Mead the baton in good position, no matter who he is up against he is going to be a fighter, and that is what he showed,âÄù head coach Steve Plasencia said. âÄúIt was a very good race and a very close race.âÄù

Mead took over in the final 100 meters, edging out Rob Finnerty of Wisconsin by 0.30 seconds to propel the Gophers to victory.

Beating the Badgers in the DMR made the win that much sweeter.

âÄúIt was fun to beat them,âÄù Plasencia said. âÄúIt was a big meet win, but two weeks from now weâÄôre going to have to come back and face those guys again at the Big Ten meet. I think it is a good rivalry and good competition and definitely the best of both teams came out this weekend.âÄù

This was also the first time this season Minnesota was able to send a 4×800-meter relay team to run in competition, and the foursome of David Pachuta, Burkstrand, Hutton and Harun Abdamade the most of the opportunity, winning the title in that event with a time of 7 minutes, 19.51 seconds.

Plasencia said the talent within the GophersâÄô 800-meter arsenal provided the team with the best chance to win.

âÄúWe thought if we ran strong we were the best team there, and our guys proved that,âÄù he said. âÄúI donâÄôt think there were any other teams that had four guys that were as good of 800-meter runners as we did.âÄù

Ben Peterson continued his dominant season, taking home another title in the pole vault by clearing a height of 17 feet, 0.75 inches. However, this first-place finish came at a cost.

Peterson rolled his ankle in one of his attempts and was unable to take his final jump.

âÄúWe come home with a good result, but we have some concern about his ankle now,âÄù Plasencia said.

Plasencia said he expects Peterson to be fully recovered for the Big Ten championships in two weeks.

Overall, the weekend provided the Gophers with confidence moving forward, as they performed well in a competitive field. This is something Plasencia said will stick with them for the remainder of this season and beyond.

âÄúI think a win at Drake is something the guys can look back on when their career is done and it will be an accomplishment that they remember âÄî definitely something they will remember,âÄù he said. âÄúItâÄôs not just another meet.âÄù

Women win the 4×1,600-meter at Drake Relays

Also competing at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, this weekend, the womenâÄôs track and field team ran away with a title of its own.

Elizabeth Yetzer took the baton as the anchor of the 4×1,600-meter relay team and quickly started to make up ground. Yetzer passed Lauren Hardesty of Iowa midway through the final leg of the race and never looked back âÄî winning the race with a time of 19 minutes, 6.52 seconds.

âÄúAll the previous legs had run strong,âÄù Yetzer said in a release. âÄúI was OK to be in second place. I was actually excited that I got to race someone. It was an advantage for me because I got to tuck behind the Iowa runner and avoid the wind a little bit.âÄù

This victory in the 4×1,600-meter continued a run of five victories in the last six years in the event for Minnesota. It was also YetzerâÄôs fourth career title in the 1,600-meter at the Drake Relays.

Yetzer also competed in the 4×800-meter this weekend but could not bring home the first-place finish for her team as she did in the 4×1,600-meter relay.

The Gophers finished third in the 4×800-meter with a time of 8 minutes, 37.54 seconds, snapping MinnesotaâÄôs four-year winning streak in the event.

All-American Samantha Sonnenberg added a third-place finish in the pole vault with a height of 13 feet, 1.5 inches.

Minnesota was also in action at the Penn Relays this weekend in Philadelphia.

Nikki Tzanakis opened up competition Friday with notable success. Tzanakis finished second in the discus with a throw of 170 feet, 7 inches.

Todea-Kay Willis, Nyoka Giles, Chimerem Okoroji and Alena Brooks placed seventh in the 4×100-meter relay with a time of 45.48 seconds, and Kelly Stalpes, Brooks, Giles and Sharyn Dahl placed sixth in the 4×400-meter with a time of 3:40.86.

Rainy weather at the Penn Relays made running conditions less than ideal. Still, head coach Matt Bingle was happy with his teamâÄôs overall performance.

âÄúComing to the Penn Relays is quite an experience,âÄù Bingle said in a release. âÄúI was happy our relays advanced. Hopefully the weather will improve so we can compete at the highest level.âÄù