Breaks help Gophers’ freshmen stay sharp for Big Ten Championships

Coach Gary Wilson has watched his first-year athletes’ pacing closely.

Matt Anderson

The Belmont Stakes has been under way all year for Minnesota’s women’s track and field team.

The colts are young, and distance is unparalleled in terms of what they’ve done before.

But coming down the stretch, coach Gary Wilson said, the coaching staff has acted as capable jockeys guiding the team that relies heavily upon youth.

The pacing of the season has allowed his freshman-heavy team to stay fresh through the grind as the season comes down to its last few weekends, Wilson said.

“We’ve done a good job as a coaching staff, as trainers of really guarding against (wearing down),” Wilson said. “Some of these kids had one or two weekends off in the middle of April, so we really guarded against that. And they’re pretty fresh; they look good.”

Freshman distance runner Ladia Albertson-Junkans said it is Wilson’s experience in dealing with young runners that has helped keep her strong late in the year.

“Wilson’s years of experience have shown him that you can’t push freshmen too hard too fast,” she said. “Because obviously, they’re not used to racing for nine months of the year.”

And though the year is longer than in high school, freshman distance runner Katie Grundman said it’s easier to run through the season.

“In high school, you don’t have to be at the top of your game all the time,” Grundman said. “And I think that college, you really find that you’re expected to be in the best shape of your life all the time.”

Although the runners are expected to be in their best shape, they said getting there has been the difficult part.

Albertson-Junkans said taking easy days in practice has been a benefit in her training.

“In high school, I didn’t really understand that concept,” Albertson-Junkans said. “And even though the season was shorter, I was always burnt out by the end. I am not burnt out right now, and I’ve been racing longer than I ever have in my life.”

Last chance for roster spots

For some athletes on Minnesota’s men’s track and field team, the Meet of the Unsaintly on Friday in St. Paul will be more parts a casting call than a track meet.

Coach Phil Lundin said the last spots on the Gophers’ roster for the Big Ten Outdoor Track and Field Championships will be decided by Friday’s performance at Hamline.

“It’s just one more opportunity,” Lundin said. “I think it just takes on a little bit more meaning obviously being it’s the last one.”

No qualifiers here

Wilson said he expects no regional qualifiers to come from the Meet of the Unsaintly.

The women’s team has 12 athletes qualified for the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships, with Liz Podominick qualified for two events, the shot put and the discus.

The men’s team qualified 15 athletes for the regional meet. Ryan Malmin, Andrew Carlson, Antonio Vega, Travis Brandstatter, Adam Schnaible, Andy Tilstra and Curt Schoenfelder all qualified for two events.