Minnesota track squads head to Iowa to compete in NCAA Regional

by Nick Gerhardt

The Minnesota men’s and women’s track and field teams will compete in regional qualifiers on May 25 to 27 in hopes of sending some of their athletes to the NCAA competition.

The Gophers’ individual athletes must place in the top five in order to move on to the NCAA Championships.

The men’s team is guided by what coach Phil Lundin dubbed the “Big Three,” seniors Aaron Buzard, Derek Gearman and Adam Schnaible.

“The Big Three have done a great job of performing and leading of the squad this year,” Lundin said.

The regional meet will provide more competition for Minnesota athletes. The Gophers will battle against schools from the Big 12 Conference as well this weekend.

“The entire Big 12 Conference is strong, but also a lot of Texas schools compete in regionals,” Lundin said. “Texas is a strong track-and-field state so it’s going to be a real dog fight.”

The men’s team comes into the meet following a second place finish at the Big Ten Championships meet.

“We were pleased with the final result, Lundin said. “It was the best we could do.”

Schnaible set the pace for Minnesota in the meet by winning the hammer event on the first day. Buzard also performed well for the team as he placed two events on the weekend.

Gearman gave the Gophers 21 points in his jumping events. Gearman also took home the Big Ten Field Event Athlete of the Year award.

“It was nice as a senior to go out with that kind of accolade,” Gearman said.

Women look to bounce back

The women’s team came away with mixed results from the Big Ten Championships by finishing fourth.

“It was probably a little disappointing, but we’re going to come back and get after it at regionals,” coach Matt Bingle said.

The Gophers finished third last year at the regional meet and this year’s meet should provide a lot of excitement for the athletes.

“The competition will be high intensity because there is a lot on the line,” Bingle said. “This competition is all about head-to-head match-ups. It’s not about time, height or distance so you better bring it or you’ll be watching it.”

Freshman Alicia Rue turned in a strong performance in the pole vault for the Gophers at the Big Ten meet by finishing second in the event.

“She just keeps getting better and better, and hopefully she will compete well in the regional meet,” Bingle said.

Minnesota appeared to have good team chemistry throughout the year and that might help the team to succeed in the regional meet. And that support from teammates might be needed to propel the team into the national competition.

“They’ve done a good job of competing and performing,” Bingle said. “They’re really a good group who enjoy each other and encourage each other.”

Athletes who advance in the regional meet will move on to compete in the NCAA Outdoor Championship held in Sacramento, Calif., on June 6-9.