Men’s track cruises to title

David La

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A few moments after members of his team doused him in Gatorade and ice, coach Phil Lundin looked over to the clapping crowd and remarked, “It’s just like being at home.”
On an already cold and rainy day, the ice made for an unwelcome frigid bath. Maybe it was necessary, though, because Minnesota generated plenty of heat as they successfully repeated as champions at the Big Ten outdoor championships this weekend.
The Gophers compiled five individual champions and scores of solid marks en route to the runaway 35.5-point margin over second-place Iowa and Wisconsin in a distant third.
“You can’t do much better than 150 points,” Lundin said. “All the way through, the guys competed wonderfully.”
The foundation for the win was put in place Friday evening and Saturday morning by senior captain Benjamin Jensen, as well as freshman Lyndon McDowell and sophomore Jesse Madsen in the decathlon events. Jensen came away with the win, while McDowell finished fourth and Madsen seventh. It was an event pattern that would be repeated often: top performances supported by numerous other scores.
Junior Adam Reed won his first title in the discus, leading a Gophers scoring contingent of four in the event.
“Obviously I’m very happy to be a Big Ten champion today and happy to score points for the team,” Reed said.
Staffan Strand, while winning his sixth straight high jump crown, also was joined by three other scorers, including senior captains Wil Kurth and Ty McCormick, as well as sophomore Marc Johannsen.
After winning a dramatic 5,000-meter run at the Drake Relays in April, junior Eric Pierce followed up with another come-from-behind win in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
“After I cleared the last water barrier, I knew one of my strengths was my kick,” Pierce said. “At that point, I knew I had the race won.”
While the Gophers spent half of Saturday crowning four Big Ten champions, the other half was spent qualifying runners for the finals on Sunday. Minnesota fared well, getting the majority of their top competitors in. The notable exception was junior Fred Rodgers, last year’s champion in the 100-meter dash, who just missed the cut for the finals.
Sophomore Steve Burkholder, while making the finals in the 100-meter event, also came up just short. Burkholder finished second to Iowa’s Tim Dwight by 1/100th of a second. Dwight is also a kick returner for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons.
The good news Sunday came from sophomore Tom Gerding, who ran to a win in the 400-meter dash; the second-place 4×100 relay team; sophomore Bob Quade, who took third in the 400-meter hurdles; and junior Jason Owen’s third-place finish in the 800-meter run.
Lundin was thrilled with the team’s win, but pointed out that his team’s biggest accomplishment was its ability to make a mark in so many events where there had previously been no such finishes.
“The demographics of the point scoring changes depending upon where the talent lies,” Lundin said. “It was good. We stepped up in areas where we didn’t do anything last year, and vice versa where we were strong last year we weren’t quite as strong this year.”
After all the Gophers’ strengths and weaknesses were sorted out, the team was left to celebrate another Big Ten title.
All that was left was for somebody to find that Gatorade.