Dorniden’s performance at Big Tens has Minn. on right track

Heather Dorniden led the Gophers women’s track and field team to a successful indoor season, but in the world of collegiate track and field, it’s the outdoor season that counts.

The Gophers opened their outdoor season during spring break and will host their only home meet on Friday, May 9.

Dorniden helped the Gophers to their second straight Big Ten indoor title this winter, finishing the season with one of the most memorable moments in the team’s history in the 600-meter race.

The junior was leading the race after two of the three laps, but tripped to start the third lap and fell almost 30 meters behind the leader. Dorniden made up that distance – almost a quarter of the track – in the final lap to win on the last step. The performance brought Gophers Athletics Director Joel Maturi to tears and helped the Gophers edge out Michigan by just eight points.

“I’ve had so many people come up to me and tell me they couldn’t believe that happened,” head coach Matt Bingle said. “Most kids, when they fall down, they’re down. Not her.”

The Gophers went on to place 15th at the NCAA indoor championships, the second best finish in school history.

Dorniden is the only national champion in school history – she won the 800-meter race in 2006 – and is the team’s top runner. She’s a five-time All-American, with four of those awards coming in the 800-meter run and one coming in the distance medley relay.

“Heather is one of the most talented women ever to come through this program,” Bingle said. “She’s made this program what it is today.”

Winning an outdoor national title is just about the only thing Dorniden hasn’t done and something she could do this year. She finished second in the 800-meter run as a freshman – a year in which she was named Big Ten freshman of the Year – and third in the same event last year.

“It’s been a great career here for me,” Dorniden said. “What happened (in the Big Ten championships) was great, but it comes down to winning national championships. Winning an indoor championship was great. Now I just want to get that outdoor title.”

The Gophers also have one of the nation’s top multievent athletes in the country, senior Liz Roehrig. Though it was overshadowed by Dorniden’s feat at the Big Ten championships, Roehrig made history at the meet by becoming the first Minnesota athlete, male or female, in any sport, to win four Big Ten titles in the same event when she won her fourth pentathlon.

Roehrig also competes in the heptathlon and holds five school records: the pentathlon (4,177 points), heptathlon (5,621 points), long jump (21-1 1/4), indoor high jump (5-10 1/2) and the outdoor high jump (5-10 3/4).

“I’m so ready for the outdoor season,” Roehrig said. “That’s what we train all year for and that’s where everything gets serious.”

Other top contributors for the women’s team are sophomore pole vaulter Alicia Rue, who won her first Big Ten indoor title this year after breaking the school record several times, and junior distance runner Jamie Cheever, an All-American in both track and cross country.

Kabia leads men’s team

The men’s team has seen less success than the women’s team in recent years, placing fifth in this year’s Big Ten indoor championships.

Their bright spot has been sprinter Ibrahim Kabia. The junior took fifth in the 60-meter dash at last season’s outdoor championship, earning his first All-American award and setting a school record with a time of 6.63 seconds.

Kabia, a Champlin Park graduate, finished second in the 60-meter dash at the Big Ten indoor championships this year and was the only Minnesota athlete to compete at the NCAA indoor championships, where he failed to advance.

Minnesota’s only home meet this season will be May 9 at the Bierman track complex.