Women’s track finishes best-ever third

by David La

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — As the 1999 season got underway, Gophers coach Gary Wilson told anyone who would listen that his team was the best group he has coached at Minnesota.
Wilson went on to call the Drake Relays in April the team’s best ever, and the nine Gophers who set either provisional or automatic NCAA qualifying marks by season’s end seemed to validate the coach’s claim.
All of those high points culminated this weekend in the best-ever performance for a Minnesota women’s track and field team at the Big Ten outdoor championships. Minnesota finished third behind champion Purdue and runner-up Wisconsin on the strength of a school-record total of 111 points.
“We had a very good meet,” Wilson said. “We’ve (set a personal best) in almost everything we ran, threw or jumped. Last year we had 59 points; this year we got that amount in two days.”
The Gophers’ record total was aided greatly by four Big Ten individual champion performances: Senior Yvette White in the 400-meter hurdles, freshman Linda Lindqvist in the javelin, and sophomore Aubrey Schmitt and junior Nicole Chimko, who each repeated as champions in the shot put and discus, respectively.
Another key to the team’s success was the scoring in multiple events by individual competitors. Junior Christine Gulbrandsen-Kurth netted scoring marks in the pole vault, long jump and triple jump. Sophomore Corinne Nimtz added points in the 5,000- and 10,000-meter runs, and junior Rasa Michniovaite scored in the 800- and 1,500-meter runs.
While the weekend ended in satisfactory fashion for the Gophers, it started off on a down note. Light rain Friday night hindered the events of the heptathlon, but a downpour and nearby lightning prematurely ended the women’s 10,000-meter run.
“We had eight laps to go and I was feeling awesome,” Nimtz said. “I’m really upset that I didn’t get to finish it. I like running in the rain; it was kind of fun.”
Nimtz did finish second, but teammate Chrissy Eid said she thought the best was yet to come.
“I know Corinne could’ve taken Erica Palmer (the event winner from Wisconsin),” Eid said. “I think I could’ve moved up a lot, too.”
While rain Friday and Sunday affected the entire field’s chance at posting better results, none of the athletes belabored the point, citing it as part of the job. Talk of individual improvement was at the forefront, especially with the NCAA championships coming up in two weeks.
“I’m going to work on my technique and try to get some things better,” javelin champion Lindqvist said. “I want to do as good as possible, place in the top three. I know I have it in me, I just have to find it.”
Having taken titles in the shot put, discus and javelin, the women’s throwers seemingly have found their rhythm.
“I kind of expected to win in the discus,” Chimko said. “The last few practices I’ve had have been going really well.”