Burkstrand wins 800-meter in Cali.

On the women’s side, Stephanie Price took fifth in the 10,000-meter and Elizabeth Yetzer was sixth in the 1,500-meter.

Dane Mizutani

In their first weekend competing out of Arizona in more than a month, the menâÄôs track and field team ran against top-tier talent at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif.

Minnesota made the most of its opportunity, finishing the weekend with notable success.

Travis Burkstrand highlighted the weekend, placing first in the 800-meter open run with a time of 1 minute, 49.70 seconds.

Burkstrand was followed by three other Gophers finishing in the top-10. Nick Hutton took third in a time of 1 minute, 49.77 seconds and Max Hanson placed fifth with a time of 1 minute, 49.84 seconds.

âÄúI think the depth of the 800-meter is what is good for us,âÄù head coach Steve Plasencia said. âÄúWe have four guys who have run under [1 minute, 50 seconds] for the 800-meter. We have an abundance of middle-distance runners.âÄù

This depth in the 800-meter is something Plasencia said will only help the team throughout the rest of the season.

However, Minnesota can take only four athletes to the Big Ten meet, so there will be in-team competition for these coveted spots.

âÄúWe have seven guys who, on most squads, would be on their Big Ten team,âÄù Plasencia said. âÄúItâÄôs a good problem, I guess.âÄù

Hassan Mead, meanwhile, proved that he is starting to return to old form following an Achilles tendon injury that kept him out of the 2010 season.

Mead finished eighth in the Olympic Development Elite 5,000-meter with a time of 13 minutes, 45.68 seconds.

âÄúI thought that was a really nice step forward for him,âÄù Plasencia said. âÄúHis time is still off his best, but heâÄôs made some nice strides since the indoor season. HeâÄôs on track to have a good season.âÄù

Mike Torchia and Pieter Gagnon both competed in the 10,000-meter at the relays.

Torchia placed ninth in the Olympic Development Invitational 10,000-meter run, clocking a personal-best time of 29 minutes, 13.20 seconds. Gagnon finished second in the Olympic Development Elite 10,000 meters with a time of 29 minutes, 24.11 seconds.

Along with the distance runners, the Gophers also flew a handful of decathletes to compete in California.

Brock Spandl, competing in his first career decathlon, finished one point away from victory with a total score of 7,384 points. Joey Schwecke finished third with 7,096 after jumping out to an early lead in the first day of competition.

Plasencia said this weekend was good for the team, as it gave them confidence entering the latter half of the season.

âÄúThere was a whole host of seasonal best or personal best times for guys this weekend,âÄù he said. âÄúThat was kind of a combination of when there are good conditions and good competition. We hoped to see good results and I know there were a lot of athletes coming away from the meet with a smile on their face.âÄù

Yetzer and Price impress and Mt. SAC Relays

While Burkstrand won a title in California, the womenâÄôs team came away without a first place finisher. Nonetheless, head coach Matt Bingle said he was satisfied with his teamâÄôs performance.

âÄúI thought they did a good job,âÄù he said. âÄúI was pleased with the performance âÄî a lot of season- and career-bests, so it was good for the crew who went out there.âÄù

Elizabeth Yetzer finished sixth at the Mt. SAC Relays in the Olympic Development Elite 1,500-meter run with a time of 4 minutes, 20.39 seconds.

âÄúI thought it was a good step for her, and as we head towards the Big Ten meet, itâÄôs looking good for those guys,âÄù Bingle said.

An All-American in cross country for the 2010 season, Stephanie Price placed fifth in the Invitational Elite 10,000-meter run with a time of 34 minutes, 2.15 seconds. This marked the first time Price has competed in the 10,000-meter in her career.

âÄúI think itâÄôs a big confidence booster for her because the 10,000-meter can be a beast,âÄù Bingle said. âÄúFor her to come out in her first one and run that time, itâÄôs great and weâÄôre excited for her.âÄù

Katie Moraczewski ran the 3,000-meter steeplechase in competition for the first time since the opening meet of the season. In the Open A of that event at the Mt. SAC Relays, she finished with a time of 10 minutes, 52.56 seconds, improving from her time of 11 minutes, 8.27 seconds in the same event to open the season.

Bingle said her improvement in this event could be pivotal for the Gophers a few years down the road.

âÄúI think itâÄôs a good sign of things to come,âÄù he said. âÄúShe can definitely have an impact with this team down the road. She took a good step this weekend, and it was exciting to see her run that well.âÄù

Minnesota also had five runners record career-best times in the 1,500-meter. These marks all came in open races.

Kathryn Ritter led the way with a time of 4 minutes, 31.53 seconds, followed by Casey Opitz in 4 minutes, 32.10 seconds, Maggie Bollig in 4 minutes, 33.41 seconds, Jamie Vandenberg in 4 minutes, 36 seconds and Danielle LeBreck in 4 minutes, 36.66 seconds.

âÄúIt was good weather, theyâÄôve been training well and itâÄôs a good group,âÄù Bingle said. âÄúThey were well-rested going into that too, so itâÄôs a lot of things that put together a good weekend for those guys.âÄù