Minnesota nails down Big Ten title

The Gophers edged out second-place finisher Michigan with a strong finish Sunday.

Minnesota Athletic Director Joel Maturi cried at the Big Ten Indoor Women’s Track and Field championships Sunday.

up next

Alex wilson invite
what: Men’s track and field
when: Friday through Saturday
where: South Bend, Ind.

He was moved to tears by junior Heather Dorniden, who ran one of the most memorable races in college track history as the No. 7 Gophers won their second straight Big Ten title.

“I’ve been around for 63 years and around sports for almost every day of that, and I don’t know that I’ve seen anything like that,” Maturi said. “It’s an emotional thing when someone does something that amazing, so yeah, I did cry a little bit.”

It happened when Dorniden was running in the second heat of the 600-meter dash. Finishing her second lap out of three, she was leading the race when her legs got tangled with another runner and she fell to the ground.

The two-time All-American and National Champion fell about 30 meters and about five seconds behind the front pack with only one lap (200 meters) left.

“I didn’t know what to think,” said Gophers freshman Jamie Dittmar, who took over the lead in the race. “I just thought, ‘That’s Heather Dorniden. Things like that don’t happen to Heather Dorniden.’ “

In just one lap Dorniden made up the entire distance she had lost, edging Dittmar by four one-thousandths of a second on her final step as the crowd at the University Field House thundered.

“I just thought, ‘Wouldn’t this be so cool if I could come back and win this thing?’ ” Dorniden said. “And I did. It was amazing.”

“I fell on my face in the state cross-country meet my senior year of high school (Rosemount) but I stayed down,” she added. “That was not going to happen to me here.”

Dorniden said her background in cross country helped, as the team practices quick-recovery methods called “Griak rolls,” named after cross country coach Roy Griak.

Her time was edged by 13 tenths of a second by a runner in a different heat, but having two runners place in the top three gave Minnesota a 12 point lead after No. 5 Michigan had tied the score in the previous event.

“I thought she lost and then I thought she won,” Gophers head coach Matt Bingle said. “It was unbelievable.”

“You always hear about stuff like that happening,” said Dittmar, who finished second in the heat, “but you don’t think you’ll ever see it happen to you.”

Earlier in the meet, senior Liz Roehrig became the first Gophers athlete in any sport to win four Big Ten titles in a single event.

Roehrig won her fourth pentathlon, scoring 4,218 points in the five events and beating the second place finisher by 129 points. She also took third in the high jump.

“I felt the best I’ve ever felt today,” she said after winning the pentathlon.

It was a grueling Saturday afternoon for Roehrig, starting with the 60-meter hurdles at 9 a.m., the high jump at 9:45, the shot put at 11:30, the long jump at 12:20 p.m. and the 800-meter run at 2:00. She then was in the long jump competition at 3:15, and finally the high jump on Sunday.

Sophomore Alicia Rue also made school history, breaking her own school record and a Big Ten championship record with a pole vault of 13 feet, 9.25 inches.

Rue actually won the competition when she cleared 13 feet, 7 inches, but was allowed to keep going. Her final vault was the 15th highest in the country this season.

“Something just clicked today,” Rue said. “After I won the event, I still felt good and kept going just for pride. You know it’s a good day when you break your own record by that much.”

The Gophers finished with 136 points, edging second place Michigan by eight.

The final race of the meet was the 4×400-meter relay, and it was Dorniden who was allowed to run the final leg, holding the gold baton in the air as teammates hugged her.

“Heather is one of the most talented women ever to come through this program,” Bingle said. “She deserved it.”