Sprinter ready to get back in race

by David La

Minnesota’s Steve Burkholder is as much a track and field fan as he is a participant.
The senior sprinter has anxiously watched the summer Olympic trials in Sacramento, Calif., while the top track athletes in the United States fought for a berth on the 2000 Olympic team.
“They’re amazing,” Burkholder said. “Michael Johnson could jog to a 43 (in the 400-meter dash), and Maurice Green could trip and still run a 10 flat (in the 100-meter dash).”
While his idols like Johnson and Green enjoy lethal speed and untold potential, Burkholder’s prospects as a professional sprinter are much more sobering.
Though he is arguably Minnesota’s top competitor in the 100- and 200-meter dashes — finishing second at the 1999 Big Ten outdoor meet in the 100 — Burkholder concedes that his track career is nearing the finish line.
“I don’t see much after college,” Burkholder said. “I’ll see how this next year goes. If I run low 10.2s I have a chance. If I run in the 10.3s again it’s not going to happen.”
To shave those all-important tenths of a second off his times, Burkholder is looking forward to a 2001 campaign that is light on injury and heavy on fundamentals.
Early in last year’s indoor season, Burkholder suffered a groin injury that never allowed him to compete at his best.
At the Big Ten outdoor meet, Burkholder made the finals in the 100-meter dash, but stricken by his ailing groin, took last place.
Fundamentally, Burkholder looks to improve on getting off the blocks at the start of his races, and he is not alone. Coach Phil Lundin is aiming to “work a lot more on start mechanics and acceleration” for his runners, many of whom Lundin feels are hampered by similar difficulties early in their races.
Injury-free and off the blocks, Burkholder is a fluid runner, cited by Lundin for “strong top-end speed and good speed endurance.” If he ever doubted the importance of the latter to his performance, Burkholder need only look to his runner-up finish at the 1999 Big Ten outdoor meet.
“I hate that day,” Burkholder said. “I think about it all the time.”
Burkholder, then a relatively unknown and untested sophomore, took a lead in the 100-meter dash and looked poised to win. In doing so, Burkholder would have succeeded teammate Fred Rodgers, the 1998 Big Ten outdoor champion in the event.
But down the stretch, the biggest name in the field, Iowa’s Tim Dwight, turned on the jets befitting a top kick returner for the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, leaving Burkholder in second place by a mere one-hundredth of a second.
“Halfway through the race I was ahead,” Burkholder said. “I was thinking to myself, ‘Whoa, I just won,’ and then … it didn’t happen.”
Lesson learned, Burkholder is looking to make it happen this season, his last with the Gophers. To ensure his groin is properly healed, Burkholder took the month of June off this summer.
Though he has enjoyed watching the exploits of his heroes striving to get to Sydney, Burkholder is ready to get back in the hunt for that elusive Big Ten title.
Lundin said there’s “no doubt” that Burkholder is capable of challenging for a Big Ten title this season.
“The sprint field in 2000 was much stronger than it was in 1999,” Lundin said. “But I think he’s capable of mixing it up with those guys.
“Not bad for a guy from Superior, Wisconsin, that didn’t even break 11-seconds flat in high school.”
David La Vaque welcomes comments at [email protected]