Individuals compete at NCAAs for national supremacy

Sophomore Heather Dorniden finished third in the 800-meter, but in the process broke the school record.

Nick Gerhardt

Ten athletes from Minnesota went to the NCAA Outdoor Championships in Sacramento, Calif., in hopes of making some noise on the track.

Men’s track

Four seniors competed for the men’s team in the final event of their collegiate careers.

Derek Gearman advanced from the qualifying round in the triple jump to

finish 12th place in the event, falling just short of earning All-America honors.

Aaron Buzard, the 2007 indoor runner-up in the 400-meter, missed the cut by finishing 13th in the semifinals. The top eight advance to the championship.

Adam Schnaible set a personal best in the shot put with a toss of 59 feet, five inches, but was unable to advance past the prelims.

Antonio Vega ran in the 10,000-meter event and finished 22nd for the Gophers.

“We did the best we could,” coach Phil Lundin said. “It’s an elite field out there and it is an honor in itself just to compete in it.”

The four seniors competing for Minnesota exemplified the spirit of the program through their hard work and career success.

“None of these guys were highly touted coming out of high school and they became some of the greatest athletes for this program,” Lundin said.

Lundin said the seniors would be missed because of their leadership.

Women’s track

Six Minnesota athletes went to the NCAA Outdoor Championships with high hopes; five of the six were making a return trip.

Sophomore Heather Dorniden looked to claim the national title in the 800-meter race.

Dorniden, the 2006 indoor champion, faced tough competition as the 2007 indoor champion and 2006 outdoor champion squared off against her in the finals this year.

Dorniden finished third with a time of 2:01.05, Minnesota school record.

“Her performance was blazing. Those kids were flying,” assistant coach Gary Wilson said. “Anytime you beat a personal best by a second is something special.”

She became the first member of the Gophers to repeat as an All-American in the same event since Rachel Lewis accomplished the feat in 1990 and 1991 in the discus event.

Senior Emily Brown ran in the 3,000-meter steeplechase finals and finished in 10th place with a time of 10:07.40.

Junior Ruby Radocaj advanced to the final round of the javelin event and finished in ninth place with a throw of 160 feet, 10 inches.

Senior Liz Alabi competed in the hammer throw and finished 18th, qualifying with a throw of 185 feet, eight inches.

“It was cool to go out there,” Alabi said. “I just wished that I competed a little better.”

Junior Liz Podominick did not make the finals and took 18th place in the prelims.

Freshman Alicia Rue participated in the pole vault but failed to clear the opening height.

Alabi praised coach Matt Bingle on his ability to create team unity throughout the year.

“He brought new ideas to the table and was huge in bringing the team together, because in the past there were cliques within cliques,” Alabi said. “Now we’re a big family and winning feels better together.”

Alabi says she sees the team continuing to improve because of the people coming into the program.

“The people coming in are good,” she said. “I expect Big Ten titles out of the group because we already have a lot of talent.”