Women’s track runs over

by Jim Schortemeyer

With the Big Ten championships looming next weekend, the Minnesota women’s track and field team did what they’re supposed to do — the Gophers invited over a gaggle of Division III schools and took it easy.
Pole vaulters from Carleton wore Hawaiian shirts, some of the Gophers’ best runners didn’t run and some so-so results were turned in.
“Today was a play day,” senior Yvette White said. “Coach said to go out and have fun.”
White continued her streak of hot winter performances with a time of 7.91 in the 60-meter dash — just behind teammate Kim Heath’s time of 7.74 from a month ago.
But nobody performed better than junior Christine Gulbrandsen. Gulbrandsen cleared 11-6 in the pole vault, four inches better than her career best. Considering that she narrowly missed at 11-10, things look very good for the Big Ten Championships.
The mark was good for a school record and it provisionally qualified Gulbrandsen for the NCAA Championships.
“It’s awesome because I’ve kind of been stuck; I haven’t been making any progress,” Gulbrandsen said.
Not to be outdone, the throwers showed they were in top form. Sophomore Aubrey Schmitt won the shot put with a toss of 52-9 1/4 — an NCAA provisional mark and her best of the year. Schmitt also won the hammer throw.
Meanwhile, junior Nicole Chimko and sophomore Brenda Meyer matched their best marks of the indoor season.
The good marks in the throws mean good things for the championships next weekend. In May, the throwers swept all three throwing events at the outdoor championships.
While some of the best athletes were performing, others were notably absent. Most of the runners were resting in preparation for next week. Head coach Gary Wilson said the meet served two purposes.
“It’s a tune-up for some — even though it’s Division III competition — and it helps us to make decision about kids on the bubble of going (to the championships),” Wilson said.
Minnesota’s last home meet comes on the heels of a hurried indoor season. Because the NCAA championships were moved up a week, so were all the conference championships in the nation. The move has left teams around the nation in a state of havoc.
“We feel rushed,” Wilson said. “Everyone in the country is trying to play catch-up.”
Wilson said he would like to finish in the top five at the championships, but made it clear that he expects more out of the outdoor season. The logic is simple: because the outdoor championships have more events the Gophers can score points in, Wilson looks at the indoor championships as a trial run.
“It’s always just a preparation for us,” Wilson said. “We go outside and pick up a lot of points.”
Minnesota will compete inside at Ohio State next Saturday and Sunday.