Men’s track team controls home meet

by Jim Schortemeyer

The only thing classic at the Minnesota Classic track and field meet was the soft drink served.
The Minnesota men’s track team tore through the assembled competition, which included the likes of St. Thomas, and Gustavus Adolphus. The meet was not scored, but Minnesota finished in first or second place in every event it entered.
A telling example of the type of competition at Saturday’s meet came in the javelin competition. Ben Jensen of Minnesota won the two-man competition by nearly 20 meters. He also finished fourth in the high jump, which is not his natural event.
Jensen won the decathlon at last year’s Big Ten Championships, and placed third in the NCAA Championships.
He is still recovering from a pulled hamstring he suffered recently in the decathlon. In fact, he was scratched from the pole vault competition this weekend after aggravating the injury in practice this week. He remains unconcerned about being prepared for the upcoming Big Ten Championships.
“If I just take it easy I’ll be healed,” Jensen said. “I don’t have to compete to be ready.”
Another Minnesota athlete was busy making a recovery this week, but it wasn’t from an injury. Chad Yechensky was coming back from his poor showing at the Drake Relays last weekend. He improved his result by more than three feet.
“There was only one way to go, and that was up,” Yechensky said.
That increase in productivity was a glimmer of hope in what has been a difficult spring for athletes competing in the field events. The rain and wind on Saturday hampered Minnesota’s field events even further.
“It’s been hard because of the weather and travel,” head coach Phil Lundin said. “I think we’ll be OK, but it’s frustrating.”
Minnesota had its usual solid running in the middle-distance races. Adam Freed won the 400-meter run, while Josh Brang (1,500 meters), and Chad Johnson (3,000 meters) were also winners. The Gophers had no athletes entered in the 800-meter race.
The sprinters also got into the winning act. Fred Rogers won the 100-meter dash, and Steve Burkholder placed second in the 200-meter race, which left Lundin pleased.
Vesa Rantanen was doing more than a little cross training at the Classic. Rantanen won the Big Ten pole vault championship in 1996. This weekend, he competed in the high jump and the 110-meter hurdles.
Rantanen, a sixth-place finisher in the hurdles at last year’s Big Ten Championships, won easily in the event, which was meant only to help him in the future.
“In his case, we’re aiming for Big Tens,” Lundin said. “Given a good competition, he’s going to vault very high.”
Still, Rantanen’s competition is a perfect summary of what this meet was about for the Gophers. Jensen said it best when describing the two-man javelin competition: “It was kind of like a practice setting.”