U track rookie to debut at Drake

by David La

Linda Lindqvist is at home in America.
Hailing from Aland, Finland, Lindqvist, a freshman on the women’s track and field team, has embraced the University and its sprawling campus.
“You can do everything here; you have the opportunity to do whatever,” Lindqvist said. “I’m a city person, and I like all the people.”
Lindqvist, a javelin specialist, will make her U.S. track and field debut at the Drake Relays April 23-24, an event which typically draws a crowd of more than 18,000. In contrast to her enjoyment of living in the city, Lindqvist is quite apprehensive going into the meet.
“I’m going to be very nervous,” Lindqvist said. “This is my first meet in the States, and I just hope that I’m going to get a lot out of it.”
The Gophers coaches are hoping to get a lot out of Lindqvist as well. Her resume includes being a member of the Finland Junior National Team six times, a fourth-place finish in the European Junior Championships in 1997 and a fifth-place finish in the World Junior Championships in 1998. Her personal best in the javelin is a distance of 184 feet, 9 inches — more than two feet further than the Minnesota school record.
The six-year-old school record is likely to last at least another weekend, however, as Lindqvist is not yet at her competitive peak.
“I’m used to starting in June, so it’s early for me,” Lindqvist said. “I’m not expecting to do something really big right now. I’m just looking forward to the experience.”
Coach Gary Wilson is looking forward to the Drake experience as well, and while he does not look at Drake as any sort of pinnacle for his athletes, he does see it as an important competition.
“There’s only a few races during the year, like Drake, that are bigger competitions,” Wilson said. “The kids come in pumped up, knowing there are 20,000 people in the stands.”
Wilson is pleased enough to have a team capable of much more than the injury-riddled group from last season that was lucky just to leave Des Moines in one piece.
“This is the first time where we’ve put everybody together at the same track, so we can start to really show how strong we are,” Wilson said.
The strength should come from All-Americans Aubrey Schmitt and Nicole Chimko in the shot put and javelin, respectively, Christine Gulbrandsen, the winner of the triple jump at the Big Ten Indoor Championships in February, and Rasa Michniovaite, an All-American during the 1998 cross county season.
“We’ve got a pretty elite group going,” Wilson said.