Seniors lead Minnesota into conference championships

Krista Theis

The Minnesota men’s track and field team begins its championship season this weekend as it competes in the Big Ten Championships this Saturday and Sunday in Bloomington, Ind.

The Gophers have taken second in three of the last four years and coach Phil Lundin said this year’s squad is definitely in contention for the title again this year.

The team to beat is No. 2 Wisconsin, which Lundin said will be hard to bring down because of the depth and point-scoring ability the Badgers have in certain events.

“They have a lot of weapons,” he said.

Besides Wisconsin, Lundin said the playing field is pretty level among unranked teams like Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Michigan State.

“You don’t tend to have just Minnesota and Wisconsin ahead of everybody like it has been for pretty much the last decade,” he said. “Everybody else seems to be moving up, so there is a lot more parity.”

Lundin said he is optimistic about winning the meet because the mood of the team and the performance level has risen dramatically over the last couple of weeks.

The Gophers demonstrated their improvements last weekend when they hosted the Snowshoe Open.

Sophomore Ibrahim Kabia set a new school and University Fieldhouse record when he placed first in the 60 meters with a time of 6.66 seconds.

Freshman Ben Peterson also had a career best and first-place finish with his 16-foot 6-inch pole vault.

“Seasonal best (times) the week before the Big Ten was obviously a good sign,” Lundin said. “All of a sudden we jumped up to putting a lot of people in the upper echelon at the Big Ten individually.”

Senior co-captain Aaron Buzard said last weekend’s meet also showed that the team is starting to come together after a rocky first part of the season.

“It kind of raised our spirits, and everyone is ready to really go after it,” Buzard said. “Personally, I think that is more important than the physical shape that they are in.”

Of the throwers group, senior co-captain, Adam Schnaible reached marks of 67 feet, 3 1/4inches in the weight throw and 56-10 3/4 in the shot put, taking first and second, respectively.

Schnaible said he would like to have a repeat of last weekend’s good series of throws.

“If I could better my mark that would be great,” he said, “but I think if not, a Big Ten title would suffice.”

For the Big Ten meet Lundin said the Gophers have a well-rounded team, however, deciding where to use their runners is going to be the hardest decision this weekend.

“Do you use your men to go for a top spot in a relay or are you better off in regards to using them to try to score more points individually?” Lundin said. “We’re just going to do it in a way that tries to maximize the total number of points we receive.”

Talent aside, another positive aspect that is going to contribute a lot to the success of Minnesota at the conference meet will be team leadership, experience and cohesiveness.

“The ability of us to come together as a group and help each other has really brought us to the point where we are,” Schnaible said. “Whether it’s me helping the younger guys, or the younger guys pointing things out to me; that relationship will help us this weekend.”

Lundin said he thinks the leadership, experience and point-scoring ability of Buzard, Schnaible and fellow senior Derek Gearman are really important to the team.

“They’re seasoned; they’ve been around the block,” Lundin said. “Those are good models to follow, so hopefully we’ll put up some good marks and have a good couple of days.”