Gophers holding out hope at Olympic trials

Hassan Mead’s last chance to make the Olympic team will come Thursday in the 5,000 meters.

Gophers holding out hope at Olympic trials

Megan Ryan

The U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., don’t officially end until July 1, but for much of the Gophers contingent, the door to the Olympic team has closed.

Senior Hassan Mead spearheads the group of Gophers still alive at the trials. He will compete in the final of the 5,000-meter run Thursday.

He qualified fifth overall and fifth in his heat Monday with a time of 13:44.56. If his school record from three years ago of 13:28.45 is any indication, the distance runner still has more to give, even after a grueling and disappointing 10,000 meters.

However, to make the Olympic team, Mead will have to be one of the top three athletes with the Olympic “A” standard of 13:20.

In the 10,000 last Friday, Mead placed 11th with a time of 27:59.04. Although Mead smashed his old school record of 28:12.74, set in April when he qualified for the Olympics at the Payton Jordan Invitational, the personal best mark wasn’t enough to make the Olympic team.

“Could he have moved up a few places more? Yeah, maybe. Was he going to make the team? No,” men’s cross country and track and field head coach Steve Plasencia said. “That’ll be his job to have over the next years. … Hopefully he can be a person who is definitely expected to make the team.”

Mead finished more than 30 seconds behind 2008 Olympian Galen Rupp’s first-place time of 27:25.33. Plasencia said this is a gap that can be bridged through training in the coming years.

The weather affected many trials competitors. The rainy Oregon climate did not provide ideal conditions, Plasencia said.

“I saw [Mead] a few times during the race — he reached up and was wringing out his jersey,” Plasencia said. “That’s kind of probably a distraction as much as anything, but it was one that everybody had.”

The weather also frustrated middle-distance runner Harun Abda, who ran in the preliminary round of the 800 last Friday. He placed fifth in his heat and 18th overall with a time of 1:48.26, falling short of making the semifinal.

“It’s kind of even hard to open your eyes and run,” Abda said.

Abda’s teammate David Pachuta advanced from the preliminary round in the 800. He placed second in his heat and sixth overall with a time of 1:47.14.

In last Saturday’s semifinal, Pachuta remained in fourth or fifth place most of the race, but his fellow competitors overtook him in the last 50 meters. The recent graduate ended seventh in his heat and ninth overall, just off his school record pace at 1:46.83 and out of the final eight qualifiers.

“I was in great position. I ran a great race. I was right where I wanted to be with 200 meters, even 100 meters to go. And I just didn’t have it at the end,” Pachuta said. “I’ve been racing since January. A lot of these pros have been racing a lot less than I have. My legs are a little tired.”

Pachuta said just being at an Olympic trials was a dream. As far as his running career, Pachuta said he plans to focus on dental school in the coming years, but he isn’t “ruling anything out” as far as competing professionally.

Former Minnesota women make Olympic push

While no current Minnesota women’s team members qualified for the U.S. Olympic trials, several former Gophers athletes are competing for a spot on the Olympic team.

Middle-distance runner Heather (Dorniden) Kampf made the final of the 800-meter run, where she finished seventh with a time of 2:02.86 and missed the Olympic team.

Thrower Liz Podominick also came close to an Olympic berth in the discus throw. She finished third in the preliminary round last Friday. However, she fell to fifth place in Sunday’s final with a distance of 59.42 meters and didn’t earn a spot on the final roster.

Rain led to the cancellation of pole vaulter Sam Sonnenberg’s  preliminary event last Friday, so all competitors vaulted in Sunday’s final. But the extra time didn’t help the Minnesota alumna. She failed to clear the opening height of 4.25 meters and will not travel to London.

Jamie Cheever qualified Monday for the 3,000 steeplechase final. She placed sixth in her heat and 12th overall with a mark of 9:51.42. She will need to improve her time by several seconds in Friday’s final to meet the Olympic “A” standard of 9:43.00.

Gabriele Anderson won’t begin her Olympic trials campaign until Thursday. She’ll compete in the 1,500-meter preliminary and will aim to advance to this Friday’s semifinal and the July 1 final. She’ll need to be one of the top three finishers with an Olympic “A” standard of 4:06 to represent the U.S.