Gophers look to improve on second

Allison Younge

A simple statement by Gophers track coach Phil Lundin describes the theme of the 1997 outdoor season.
“Goals are overrated. You do everything right, and you get the best result you can achieve. I don’t want to put any limits on people.”
Although the coach refuses to express any expectations for this year’s team, he clearly defines the Gophers’ tone of limitless excellence.
“All we want to do is prepare hard and do the best we can,” Lundin said.
The Gophers, striving to improve on last year’s runner-up finish at Big Tens, will compete in their third outdoor meet this weekend.
Minnesota will travel to Knoxville, Tenn., to compete in the Sea Ray Relays. This meet will offer the team a high level of competition and the opportunity to compete in a warmer climate.
Only part of the team will travel south for the weekend, however. Many athletes will remain in Minnesota because of injury and threat of fatigue.
“We’re leaving home many of the athletes that competed last weekend in Texas,” Lundin said. “It gets to be too much travel, and then it’s hard to train.”
Injuries have been the Gophers’ thorn this season. Having to train indoors for much of the year has caused Minnesota many setbacks. The tight turns and hard surface of the track make it difficult to endure intense workouts.
“We’re doing the best we can to try and minimize the injuries,” Lundin said. “But it really does affect us.”
Sophomore Glenn Lindquist (decathlon), senior Scott Beadle (sprints/middle distance) and junior Wil Kurth won’t compete this weekend, as well as freshman distance runner Jason Owen. Kurth and Owen will redshirt for the outdoor season because of the extent of their injuries.
The Gophers hope that top-notch performances are in store to fill the injury-gap. Many members of this year’s team have already proven they are capable of success. Sophomore Vesa Rantanen (the Gophers’ record-breaking pole vaulter) is at the top of the list, but he is not alone.
Among those to watch are freshman high jumper Steffan Strand, sophomore decathlete Ben Jensen and senior pole vaulter Tye Harvey.
Last year’s Big Ten discus champion, Jason Schlueter, returns to lead the throwers for Minnesota. Schlueter, a senior, won the Big Ten discus title last year with a toss of 185 feet. Junior Chad Yenchesky will also give strength to the throws team.
The Gophers have strong leaders in many events, but Lundin hopes to see improvement in the middle distance and sprints.
“We’re hoping that the football team can come up with some sprinters that can help score touchdowns and also run for us. But that’s not the case right now.” Lundin said.
No football players are on the roster yet, but a heavyweight wrestler will be added. Shelton Benjamin is expected to begin training with the sprint team within a week or two.
“We’re hoping that he’ll be a relay guy for us and maybe run the 100-meter open,” Lundin said.
Even though injuries may have initially sidetracked the Gophers, Lundin reinforced the fact that the season has just begun.
“By the end of April or early May, we’ll make an assessment of whether we panic or not.”