Gophers three-peat in 4×800 relay at Drake

BY Heidi Hanse [email protected] The Yankees did it. The Bulls did it. Now the Gophers have done it. The Minnesota womenâÄôs 4×800-meter relay team won their third consecutive Drake Relay title this weekend in Des Moines, Iowa. In a time of 8:37.20, beating Stanford by more than 3 seconds, the Gophers became the second team to win three straight 4×800 titles; Oregon won three straight from 1995-1997. Seniors Julie Schwengler, Jamie Cheever and Heather Dorniden were joined by sophomore Nikki Swenson to clock a time that is the second-fastest in the world this year. Swenson was the only runner who wasnâÄôt on the previous two teams that won. The runners entered the race with confidence, Cheever said. âÄúWe were confident just because we have done it so many times before, and we know how to get focused and do what we have to do,âÄù she said. âÄúWe, of course, donâÄôt take it for granted. There are tons of other good teams weâÄôre competing against.âÄù Minnesota also won the 4×1,600 relay for its second title of the weekend. Senior Ladia Albertson-Junkans, sophomore Elizabeth Yetzer, Swenson and Dorniden won by more than six seconds. Junior Megan Duwell took second in the 1,500 and Cheever completed the busy weekend with a third-place finish in the 3,000 steeplechase. The Gophers were split up between three meets this weekend. At the Sooner Invitational in Norman, Okla., junior pole vaulter Alicia Rue won the only title for the Gophers, but senior Christin Kingsley and first-year DeAnne Hahn earned NCAA Regional qualifiers in the long jump and shot put, respectively. McGinnis earns NCAA championships qualifier When junior R.J. McGinnis wants to do something, he does it. This weekend, the Minnesota menâÄôs track and field member wanted to earn 7,500 points, enough for an NCAA championships qualifier in the decathlon. He earned 7,626. Despite finishing second in the event, McGinnis secured his second trip to the NCAA championships at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa this weekend. âÄúTo get that automatic qualifier is so important,âÄù assistant coach Paul Thornton said, âÄúand to do it early in the season, now he can just relax and work on little things to improve on.âÄù Also at the Drake Relays, many other Gophers didnâÄôt disappoint. Junior Aaron Studt defended his shot put title, and the 4×1,600 relay team beat Stanford by six hundredths of a second. Sophomore Hassan Mead led off with first-year Andy Richardson, junior Chris Rombough and sophomore Ben Blankenship following. Mead said he knew the race was going to be a good one, especially since Wisconsin and Stanford were in it. âÄúThe winner was going to have to basically run their guts out, and thatâÄôs what we did,âÄù he said. Those titles give Minnesota 49 total Drake Relay titles. Rounding it out for the Gophers was the 4×1,600 relay team, who took second, and senior Ben Puhl, who also took second in the 3,000 steeplechase.