Trip to Drake is Gophers’ best

David La

DES MOINES, Iowa — As he walked through the infield area of Drake Stadium, basking in the warmth of an ideal spring afternoon amid the buzz of the capacity crowd, Gophers track coach Gary Wilson was beaming.
“Welcome to the Drake Relays,” he said.
And due to a core of Gophers who made their marks with solid performances, Wilson and his team left Iowa feeling good about their chances of winning the Big Ten outdoor championships April 29-30.
“What’s happening now is the people are starting to say, ‘You know what? Maybe Wilson isn’t crazy. Maybe we can still really pull this off,'” coach Gary Wilson said.
Wilson’s mood was bright as he rattled off a list of performances that convinced him this was the “best Drake Relays we’ve ever had.”
Despite some chilly temperatures on Friday, junior Christine Gulbrandsen won the triple jump with a season-best and NCAA provisional qualifying distance of 41-8 3/4.
“For being 36 degrees, I was very happy with provisionally qualifying,” Gulbrandsen said.
Gulbrandsen also finished 14th in the pole vault Saturday, with a school record height of 11-5 1/4 inches.
Also setting her first NCAA provisional mark was freshman Linda Lindqvist in the javelin competition. Lindqvist finished second, while teammate Nicole Chimko, who has already met automatic qualifying standards in the javelin this season, took third.
Sophomore Corinne Nimtz missed first place in the 10,000-meter run by less than four seconds, rounding out a solid first day.
Junior Beth Howard broke the school record in the hammer throw for the third time this year, and finished second overall.
“Today was my first time seeing a lot of the girls in the Big Ten,” Howard said. “It was good to see where I fit in again, and finish right with or above them.”
While some athletes were setting personal bests, NCAA qualifying marks and school records, a few had to settle for making Drake a high-profile rehabilitation session.
Senior Yvette White, coming back from a hip-flexor injury, competed only in the preliminary 400-meter hurdles, though she was slated to also run in the 100-meter dash.
“It’s very frustrating,” White said of her spectator status. “I could be running so much better, so much faster now. But there is really not a whole lot you can do. You just keep working with it until it goes away.”
While winning the Big Tens is the team’s primary goal, two more NCAA provisional qualifying performances this weekend have affected Wilson’s NCAA outlook.
“We’re on target to have seven or eight national-qualifying athletes,” Wilson said.