Top U steeplechaser skips Drake to rest up

Monica Wright

The Drake Relays is considered one of the premiere meets in the country, with 18,000 screaming fans and over 700 different teams.
So why was senior Eric Pierce, the Big Ten steeplechase champion and 1999 Drake 5,000-meter champion, conspicuously absent from both races?
Simple: One race was too slow, one too fast, and they both would throw off his training as he guns for a chance at national steeplechase glory.
“You can’t race the steeple every weekend, that’s a lot of jumping and it beats you up too much,” Pierce said. “The steeplechase at Drake is too slow and would just tire me out, and I need all my energy for this weekend.”
Just the opposite can be said for the 5,000 at Drake, which Pierce said was full of great competition, but like the steeplechase, it would only serve to drain him as he prepares to run an NCAA qualifying time this weekend at Stanford.
“I know I have to get a fast time to go to nationals, so I want to go sub-8:40,” Pierce said. “There should be a lot of collegiate and post-collegiate runners there. It’s going to be a super race.”

The flip side
For the Minnesota women, too many runners was the problem in the women’s 5,000 invitational. Junior Corinne Nimtz was the only Gopher scheduled to run based on her qualifying time.
But when the race began, two additional Gophers, sophomores Victoria Moses and Chrissy Eid, joined the crowd of 30 other runners. Coach Gary Wilson had gotten both runners submitted despite their lack of a recent qualifying time.
The racetrack was so packed with runners that, as the group rounded the first turn, visible pushing and crowding led to Kansas runner Amy Mortimer being knocked to the ground; the race had to start over.
“They tell you at the beginning of a race that if someone trips in the first turn they’re going to restart the race,” Moses said. “It doesn’t happen a lot but it was a big pack last weekend.”
After restarting the race, Mortimer went on to win with a time of 16:14.57

Whip it
Junior Mark Fahey has had a breakout season this spring, placing in the top 10 in every outdoor meet he has thrown at.
After breaking the school record in the hammer throw with a toss of 189 feet only a week before the Drake Relays, Fahey went on to set a personal record in the discus in Des Moines on Saturday with a throw of 182’10”.
Fahey’s record boosted coach Phil Lundin’s spirits after a disappointing showing by the Gophers on Friday.
“Saturday left a much better taste in my mouth,” Lundin said. “Mark has come into his own and stepped up to be the leader in the throws and his experience has been essential.”

Monica Wright covers track and field and welcomes comments at [email protected]