Abda seeks redemption at NCAAs

Senior Harun Abda will compete in three events at the NCAA indoor championships this weekend.

Minnesota's Harun Abda runs the 800-meter dash Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, at the University Fieldhouse.

Jaak Jensen, Daily File Photo

Minnesota's Harun Abda runs the 800-meter dash Friday, Feb. 15, 2013, at the University Fieldhouse.

Megan Ryan

Senior Harun Abda had the No. 1 time in the nation for the 800-meter run heading into the NCAA indoor championships last year.

Abda had set school records in the 800- and 600-meter runs, won the Big Ten indoor championships in the 600- and 400-meter runs and won numerous conference and regional awards.

Yet he failed to qualify for the 800 final on the national stage.

Abda said he felt ashamed and embarrassed after failing to make the finals.

This year Abda has one main goal — redemption.

While Abda is focusing on just making the 800 final at the NCAA indoor championships this weekend, he also has two more events to juggle — the distance medley relay and the 4×400-meter relay.

Assistant coach Paul Thornton said he doesn’t doubt Abda’s ability to handle four races in two days.

“It’s a challenge, there’s no question about that,” Thornton said. “But it’s also all spaced out to where an athlete can have success.”

The preliminary round of the 800 is Friday, and about two hours later is the distance medley relay, the last event of the day.

Abda will have about an hour between the 800 final and the 4×400 relay Saturday.

“It’s not something that out of ordinary,” said Abda, who competed in multiple events at the Big Ten indoor championships two weeks ago.

The coaches are bringing alternates for the relays, however, in case Abda feels he needs to focus more on the 800.

“The ultimate goal is for him to have the highest-place finish he’s ever had at the NCAA meet,” Thornton said.

Abda ran the 4×400 relay last year, and the team finished sixth.

Senior Cameron Boy, who will run in both the distance medley relay and the 4×400 relay with Abda at nationals, said both relays are unique.

Since the distance medley relay combines the distance runners, whom the team call “Shufflers,” and the middle-distance runners, known as the “MD Mafia,” the four runners collaborate more on strategy.

Boy said seniors Nick Hutton and Travis Burkstrand usually educate him and Abda on the competition.

“They are running geeks,” Boy said. “They live for this stuff.”

The 4×400 with redshirt freshman Goaner Deng and junior Jacob Capek is quieter, solemn and focused with less collaboration, Boy said.

Abda said he will give everything he can to the relays because his teammates rely on him.

Thornton said Abda is in a better place mentally, physically and emotionally than last year because he is eager instead of stressed out and worried.

Abda said he is just hoping to make a mark at his last NCAA indoor championships.

“Everything is … last now,” Abda said. “When you think about that, you just want to do something memorable.”