Men’s track fares well at relay meet

by Monica Wright

The Gophers men’s track and field team showed it could hold its own at the prestigious Hayward Relays on Saturday with multiple top-10 finishes in six events.
And one of the best finishes was a second-place finish in the 5,000-meter race for assistant coach Steve Plasencia.
As bizarre as that may seem, Plasencia, a two-time Olympian who will be competing in the marathon Olympic trials in May, says it isn’t strange for him to race during the season to get in some practice.
“I don’t often compete in races with my athletes, but I don’t have time to work out much. and the trials are coming up,” Plasencia said. “It can be weird for the guys, but they came here to learn from me, not compete with me.”
Competing with the 42-year-old coach is nothing short of difficult. As a five-time All-American, 1990 U.S. 10,000-meter champion and member of the Minnesota Track and Field Hall of Fame, the Gophers don’t hope to finish in front of their coach at the meet.
“I know what he’s done in the past,” said senior Jeremy Polson, who also ran in the 5,000. “I don’t look to beat him.”
As a coach, Plasencia had nothing but praise for a team that faced last-minute runner additions due to an illness and the return of Polson, who hadn’t competed since February due to injury.
Despite the adversity and the fact that Minnesota only participated in the field and distance events, the Gophers gave the 4,041-person crowd and first-place Stanford a good show.
Leading the Gophers was senior Eric Pierce, who took first in the steeplechase with a time of 8:56.38, six seconds faster than the second-place finisher.
Though it was seconds shy of his NCAA qualifying time last year at Hayward Field, Plasencia felt it was a solid run.
“Pierce won, and that’s always a good deal,” Plasencia said. “It wasn’t an NCAA time, but it wasn’t a fast race this year.”
In the most popular events of the meet, the relays, the Gophers posted two third-place finishes in the 4×800 and distance medley.
Minnesota also saw decidedly strong placements in the field events, where juniors Ben Meyer and Mark Fahey and senior Jude Wimberger all landed in the top 12 in the hammer throw.
Fahey also placed sixth in the discus, where he competed against two of the top three throwers in the nation.
“I thought I was a little flat but it was par — not a bad performance, but I can do better,” Fahey said. “I like throwing against the upper-class throwers. It’s more of a high-powered competition.”

Monica Wright covers track and field and welcomes comments at [email protected]