Marks’ leap impresses Wilson, voters

Shani Marks’ triple jump of 44-10.25 broke the school record by more than a foot and is the best mark in the country this year by more than four inches.

by Ben Goessling

Minnesota women’s track and field coach Gary Wilson reserved no superlatives when describing senior Shani Marks’ triple jump at the Pepsi Team Invitational in Eugene, Ore., last weekend.

Marks’ leap of 44-10.25 broke the school record by more than a foot and is the best mark in the country this year by more than four inches. This week, Marks also earned Big Ten and athlete of the week accolades.

And the senior’s performance earned her one more honor: a nod from Wilson for the most flawless triple jump he’s ever seen.

“I’ve seen Olympic athletes jumping 56, 57 feet, and I’ve never seen a better technical jump than that jump,” Wilson said. “You could probably break it down a little bit with videotape, but to the naked eye, it was the most perfect jump I’ve ever seen.”

Marks also won the 400-meter hurdles and ran on Minnesota’s victorious 4×100-meter and 4×400-meter relay teams, accounting for 36 of the Gophers’ 172 points and helping Minnesota to a second-place finish behind host Oregon.

“Thirty-six points. That’s pretty good for one kid,” Wilson said.

Merritt returns

After missing all of the indoor season and the first month of the outdoor campaign because of surgery to correct a muscle tear called pubitis, sophomore sprinter Robb Merritt made his return to action at the Pepsi Team Invitational last weekend.

Merritt, a 2002 all-Big Ten selection outdoors, set team freshman records in the 60-meter and 200-meter dashes during the indoor season last year.

He ran the 200-meter dash last weekend in 21.80 seconds, missing his personal best by just three-hundredths of a second.

Merritt was also a part of the Gophers’ winning 4×100-meter relay.

“It felt so great to be back out and running with no pain,” Merritt said. “It was probably my favorite meet I’ve been to.”

Merritt said he was around “70 or 75 percent” endurance-wise, and will likely run every weekend between now and the end of the season.

“We’ve got to decide whether I’m going to run the 100 or 400 at the Big Ten championships, so I’ll probably start trying the 400 in a couple weeks,” he said. “I’ve only had five weeks of training, but it’s nice to be able to run again.”

Potter withdraws

Seven-time All-America sprinter Mitch Potter pulled out of the 4×400-meter relay at last weekend’s meet, citing a sore left foot.

He won the 400-meter dash in 45.76 seconds, beating teammate Adam Steele by a second.

But Potter withdrew from the relay, and the Gophers, who currently hold the third-fastest time in the country, lost to Oregon.

“I’ve had a history of foot pain, and I was just playing it safe,” Potter said. “It was just a precaution, but it’s nothing to worry about.”

Up next

Minnesota’s men’s track and field team will travel to the Northern Iowa Open on Saturday.

The women’s track and field team will send the majority of its squad to Northern Iowa as well but has several athletes entered in the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif.

Ben Goessling covers track and field and welcomes comments at [email protected]