Three Gophers move on to the NCAA Championships

Grant Donald

Despite three of his athletes punching their tickets to collegiate track and fieldâÄôs biggest stage âÄì the NCAA Championships âÄì the Gophers must have been wondering âÄòwhat if?âÄô Senior captain Blayne Dulian finished 16th in the 1,500-meter and only two seconds behind the time of the last championship qualifier. MinnesotaâÄôs 4×400-meter relay team also finished in 16th place, but they were less then a second away from advancing. But while those individuals left the NCAA West Regional meet disappointed, juniors Goaner Deng, Luke Johnson and Gian Ferretti experienced the flip side of emotions. âÄúI canâÄôt really put it in words,âÄù Johnson said after advancing to the championships in the shot put. âÄúItâÄôs all so surreal.âÄù After failing to qualify for the NCAA Regional meet in his previous two years, Johnson utilized a personal record throw of 18.70 meters to finish ninth in the event and a mere 0.04 meters ahead of the twelfth and final qualifying spot. âÄú[The personal record] came on my very first throw,âÄù Johnson said. âÄúI figured it was going to be enough to qualify me for the championships, but it still made the rest of the meet pretty nerve wracking to watch.âÄù Johnson wasnâÄôt the only Minnesota athlete who relied on the best day of their career to earn a spot in the championships. DengâÄôs personal record in the 800-meter run was good enough for eighth place âÄì 0.22 seconds ahead of the final qualifying time. Deng, an All-American, qualified for the NCAA Championships back in 2013 as a member of the 4×400-meter relay team. Rounding out the Gophers trio to advance out of Austin, Texas is Ferretti. The Italian will compete in the hammer throw after placing sixth with a throw of 65.39 meters. All three of these athletes will be joining sophomore Luca Wieland at the NCAA Championships beginning on June 10. Wieland already qualified in the decathlon after taking home the Big Ten title last month.