Gophers come up short at Drake Relays

Minnesota’s men’s 4×800-meter relay team had won the last three seasons.

Minnesota high jumper Wally Ellenson practices at Bierman Field on April 30, 2013.

Daily File Photo, Amanda Snyder

Minnesota high jumper Wally Ellenson practices at Bierman Field on April 30, 2013.

Megan Ryan

Minnesota’s track and field teams have written a lot of program history at the Drake Relays. But there wasn’t much to add to the books after the 105th installment of the meet in Ames, Iowa, this weekend.

The Gophers men’s 4×800-meter relay finished fifth in the event it won the previous three years, the women’s distance medley relay placed fourth after winning and setting the school record last year, and the women’s 4×1,600-meter relay also finished just off the podium.

“We got behind and never really got back into the race,” head men’s coach Steve Plasencia said of his 4×800 team. “That didn’t really materialize as we kind of hoped it would.”

Still, Plasencia and assistant women’s coach Sarah Hopkins both said the reason for the lower finishes wasn’t necessarily the way their teams performed.

This year’s meet was stacked with powerhouse teams that haven’t competed there in recent years, including Arkansas, Washington and Baylor — all nationally ranked teams.

Hopkins said her 4×1,600 team actually clocked a better time than last year, when it placed second.

“There was really good competition, which makes the relays more fun,” she said. “And obviously, when you run faster than last year and place a little bit worse, it’s not necessarily all based on your performance. It’s based on who else is there.”

The relays didn’t quite live up to expectations, but several individual athletes tallied memorable results.

Gophers junior Blayne Dulian placed third in the 1,500-meter run at 3:46.51, a personal best and possibly enough to qualify him for the NCAA regionals.

“It was kind of a weight off my shoulders,” he said. “I was itching to get into a fast race and get that regional time out of the way.”

Gophers sophomore Wally Ellenson placed third in the high jump on a judge’s decision, matching his personal best of 2.20 meters.

Minnesota’s women’s team also sported a third-place finish from senior Kelli Budd in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. She ran a personal-best time of 10:14.53.

Geyen wins three titles

The Gophers women’s team collected four titles at the UC San Diego Triton Invitational, and senior Megan Geyen helped win three of them.

Geyen won the 400-meter dash in 54.18 seconds and nabbed two more titles as a member of the 4×100- and 4×400-meter relay teams.

Minnesota sophomore Cami Gilson tied her personal best in the pole vault to win at 3.95 meters.