U splits squads to prep for big meets

Allison Younge

The Gophers men’s track team divided forces this weekend between two vastly different competitions in preparation for the upcoming Big Ten and NCAA championship meets.
“Everything that we do during the season is directed towards Big Tens and NCAAs,” Gophers coach Phil Lundin said.
Here is a rundown of what happened at each meet:
Jesse Owens Classic
Twelve athletes traveled east to compete in the Jesse Owens Classic in Columbus, Ohio on Sunday. This national-caliber meet hosted several of the country’s elite track and field programs.
“We would’ve liked to send more people, but a lot of our guys are a little tired, and we’ve got some still recovering from injuries,” Lundin said.
Gophers senior Seth Mischke was the only first-place finisher at the Jesse Owens Classic. He won the pole vault with a vault of 16 feet, 3 inches. Two Gophers discus throwers placed in the top four in their event. Sophomore Jeff Marsh placed second with a toss of 168 feet, and freshman Justin Asher took fourth at 154-5.
Several other Gophers also took home fourth-place finishes from the meet. Jeremy Polson (3,000-meter run), Aaron Wheatcraft (400 hurdles), Adam Freed (200) and Don McLaughlin (1,500) all finished fourth in their respective events.
Minnesota Classic
Following the close of the Minnesota Classic at the Bierman Track and Field Stadium on Saturday, several Gophers took time for some extra training. They ran up and down the bleacher stairs or took a few laps around the track, showing that the meet was less strenuous than usual.
“It was a situation where we ran odd events with a split team,” Lundin said. “The objective was to get things going if they aren’t, and maintain and build upon the things we are doing well.”
No team scores were recorded at the 11-team meet which included several Division II and III schools. Out of the 16 Gophers that competed, five managed first-place finishes. Gophers veteran throwers Jason Schlueter (discus) and Chad Yenchesky (shot put) dominated their respective events.
Schlueter won the discus and provisionally qualified for the NCAAs for the fourth time this season. He won the event with a throw of 183-2. The mark is 8 feet, 2 inches shy of his season best throw of 191-0, which he recorded at the Texas Relays (Austin, Tex.) on April 4. Schlueter won the Big Ten discus title last year with a throw of 185-0.
Yenchesky, a junior, clinched first place in the shot put with a throw of 56-11 1/4. This toss missed the provisional qualifying standard, but Yenchesky has already provisionally qualified in the shot put three times this season.
Other first-place finishers included sophomores Nate Clay, Charles McClure and Tyler McCormick. Clay won the 800-meter in 1:55.54, McClure clinched first in the 3,000 in 8:46.34 and McCormick tied for first in the high jump with a mark of 6-6.
“Clay and McClure both ran strong races,” Lundin said. “They are coming along very well. Many good things came out of this meet besides just the training effect that you get from competing.”
A feature spark for the Gophers came in the 100. Junior Shelton Benjamin took second in the race, competing in his first track meet with the Gophers. Benjamin, this year’s starting heavyweight on the Gophers wrestling team, clocked in a time of 10.99.
“I felt pretty good considering how cold it was,” Benjamin said. “I didn’t really know what to expect or who would be there, so I was basically running against myself.”
Lundin recognizes Benjamin’s talent, but says he needs to build more endurance even for the shortest race.
“There is an element of endurance to the 100,” Lundin said. “We’ll change our training a bit to represent building up that endurance and maintaining speed, and maybe he’ll be ready in time for Big Tens.”
Gophers top pole vaulters Vesa Rantanen and Tye Harvey opted out of their event for the day to join Benjamin in the 100. Rantanen finished 10th (11.28), and Harvey placed 12th (11.31). Rantanen and Harvey have already automatically qualified for NCAAs in the pole vault.
“The pole vault is hard on your bones and joints,” Harvey said. “That’s why Coach entered a lot of us into different events that don’t wear so much on your body.”
Lundin admits that the current focus of the team is directed toward the final two championship meets. Training involves doing what’s best for each individual athlete now.
“It’s always a mixed bag,” Lundin said. “Each person has a different directive depending on their needs or physical status at that time.”