Gophers women’s track coach Gary Wilson stood against the fence near the side of the track at Bierman Track and Field Stadium on Saturday with a slightly concerned look on his face.
“I hate to lose,” Wilson said. “I just really hate to lose.”
Minnesota was about to lose the overall team competition of the Minnesota Classic to Marquette by a score of 162 points to the Gophers’ 119. Wilson was a little disappointed, but he predicted the outcome before the 11-team competition began.
Wilson purposely scheduled his athletes to only do certain events so they could heal sore muscles and prepare for the Big Ten championships.
“Normally at this meet, if we’re 100 percent, we’ll double and triple people (in events), but we’re just a little banged up right now,” Wilson said. “We’re just trying to keep everybody healthy and focused toward the conference meet, but we sacrificed a lot of points … by doing that.”
One athlete who is not holding back this season is senior thrower Dani Parkos. Her throw in the shot put of 49 feet, 8189> inches was good enough to provisionally qualify her for NCAAs for the fourth time this season. It is also the second longest throw in Gophers history.
“Dani’s throw was a nice throw, … and I think you’re going to see that spark that she had before coming off the floods,” Wilson said.
Parkos is from Grand Forks, N.D., and recently felt the effects of the floods as her family lost its home.
“She really had a tough couple of weeks, but (Saturday) was the old Dani back,” Wilson added.
Parkos also took third place in the discus with a throw of 159-8.
Three other Gophers took first place in their respective events.
Sophomore Anna Gullingsrud won the 5,000-meter race with a time of 17:41.18. Freshman Kristi Stiles won the 400, finishing in 57.76 seconds.
The other Gopher to win an event was freshman Nicole Chimko, who continues to dominate the javelin. Her throw of 155-5 was an NCAA provisional qualifier, Chimko’s second of the season. Her throw was more than 30 feet farther than the second-place finisher from South Dakota State.
“I was really trying to automatically qualify for NCAAs, but the job didn’t go as well,” Chimko said. “It’s hard when there is no one to compete against; you have to compete against yourself.”
Sophomore sprinter Kimberly Heath had a strong day for the Gophers despite not winning her races. She finished third in both the 100- and 200-meters. In the 800, junior Andrea Lentz finished in second place.
Despite some successes during the meet, the Gophers are a young team, and Wilson knew this year would be filled with a host of growing pains.
When the meet was coming to an end, Wilson had a long discussion with Illo, Finland, native Minna Haronoja, who was not pleased with her fourth place finish in the 800.
“I told Minna, I said, ‘You see that tree right there, if I uproot that tree and move it 8,000 miles across the ocean, it’s going to wilt a little bit just from the move,'” Wilson said. “I think that’s what a lot of the freshmen are experiencing. They really struggle at this time of the year.”
The Gophers have two more home meets before they travel to Champaign, Ill., to compete in the Big Ten championships. Wilson said he hopes his team will take the time to rebound and get ready to compete — especially the freshmen.
“When they start to feel comfortable here, then they are going to be awesome,” Wilson said. “This is going to be an awesome year.”