Women keep up progress in Tenn.

The Gophers qualified two individuals and their 4×400-meter relay for regionals.

Matt Anderson

A trip south didn’t give the Big Ten a victory over the SEC. But for Minnesota’s women’s track and field team, conference pride took a backseat to continued improvement.

The combined SEC team topped the combined Big Ten team by a score of 379-310 during the weekend at the Big Ten vs. SEC Challenge in Knoxville, Tenn.

But Minnesota gained two individual qualifiers for the NCAA Midwest Region Championships: Liz Podominick in the shot put and Mollie Hupp in the 800 meters. The Gophers also qualified their 4×400 relay team for the regional meet.

Coach Gary Wilson said that he was pleased with his team’s performance during the weekend.

“I thought they did a great job,” he said. “We’re one notch ahead of where we were last week, and that was the objective.”

Podominick’s qualifying throw came in her first collegiate competition. After taking a redshirt for last year’s indoor and outdoor season, this was the two-sport athlete’s first event on the team after finishing the women’s basketball season.

Her throw of 50-0 was good for second place behind April Thomas of Tennessee, who took the competition with a shot put of 50-9.5.

Hupp came in third in the 800, running a 2:09.52. She said qualifying for the regional meet will help her for the rest of her season.

“I think it took a little bit of pressure off me,” Hupp said. “It gives me more confidence too, going into Big Tens, that I can actually keep that time up from last year.”

Wilson said that through the team’s early-season performance, it remains important to stay on the training cycle.

“The most important thing right now is recovery,” he said, “just making sure we’re not pushing ourselves over the edge right now.”

Men take four titles

Minnesota’s men’s track and field team, also in Knoxville for the SEC vs. Big Ten Classic, won four individual titles at the event and qualified four individuals for the Midwest regional meet.

Aaron Buzard in the 400, Jason Swenson in the javelin, John Albert in the high jump and Ryan Ford in the 1,500 claimed event titles for the Gophers.

Buzard, Josh Paulson in the high jump and Ryan Malmin and Erik Grumstrup in the 3,000 steeplechase all qualified for the regional meet.

Through all these individual accomplishments, coach Phil Lundin said the biggest thing to come out of the weekend was the need for more improvement

“The results were better this weekend but certainly nothing that we consider great by our previous standards near the end of the year,” he said. “It’s generally the pattern we normally see. People start to show a little life in early- to mid-April, then just continue in that path.”