Athletes prepared for national meet

The Gophers men and women squads are both sending six competitors to the NCAA Championship.

The NCAA Track and Field Championships begin Wednesday and Minnesota will be represented in full force. Six men and six women will compete in the meet for the Gophers, which lasts Wednesday through Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark. MenâÄôs head coach Steve Plasencia said he thinks some of the guys will be able to score some points and compete with the top national competitors. Not much changed in practice recently, Plasencia said, because the six Gophers are comfortable with how they are competing. All but one of the men (junior-to-be Ben Blankenship ) have experience in either indoor or outdoor NCAA championships. Plasencia said this experience has helped them know what to expect when their event begins. Junior-to-be Hassan Mead said he had the chance to learn about many of his opponents when he competed in the 2009 indoor championship in the 3,000-meter run. Although Mead will be running the 5,000 in the outdoor event, he said the field has many of the same athletes, which has helped him practice for the race. âÄúI think the experience of being there and realizing the kind of athletes youâÄôre running against, competitive-wise, helps you on the next one,âÄù Mead said. Having teammates around also helps preparation as well, Mead said. With five other Gophers around, he said it is easier to remain comfortable off the track. âÄúThe rest of the day when youâÄôre at the hotel and relaxingâĦyouâÄôre able to hang out with your teammates and relax. It feels like youâÄôre just at home,âÄù Mead said. âÄúHaving a couple teammates definitely, I think, helps you psychologically.âÄù Senior-to-be Chris Rombough will join Mead in the 5,000 during the meet. Blankenship will run the 1,500. Seniors-to-be Matt Fisher, Aaron Studt and R.J. McGinnis will compete in the high jump, shot put and decathlon, respectively. On the womenâÄôs side, head coach Matt Bingle said he thinks the women are a little nervous for the meet, which is a great feeling to have before something of this magnitude. âÄúIf you canâÄôt get excited for nationals what can you get excited for?âÄù he said. Bingle said the six going to the championships have looked sharp in practice and might be able to earn Minnesota some points. The women competitors include: seniors Heather Dorniden (800-meter run) and Liz Roehrig (heptathlon), senior-to-be Alicia Rue (pole vault) and juniors-to-be Amy Laskowske (10,000-meter run), Nikki Swenson (800) and Elizabeth Yetzer (1,500). Of the six, only Swenson and Yetzer are participating in their first championship. Some of the others have experienced past success at the national level. Dorniden was a national champion in 2005, Roehrig finished second in 2008 and Rue has captured second place multiple times. Bingle and Plasencia said the hot weather could become a factor in Fayetteville because it changes the dynamic of some of the races, but both expect it to affect everyone equally. âÄúThat will be something theyâÄôll have to overcome mentally and physically,âÄù Plasencia said. âÄúAside from that I think weâÄôre all ready to go.âÄù