Gophers compete in USA Nationals

Four Gopher athletes extended their season to compete in the USA Nationals last weekend.

Marija Majerle, Daily

Ashley Goetz

Marija Majerle, Daily

While many college athletes end their competition season with the academic semester, some Gophers continued training to compete in the USA Outdoor Track & Field Nationals last weekend at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. Two current Minnesota athletes and two stars who finished their track careers in 2009 competed in the event, which womenâÄôs head coach Matt Bingle said is a good meter for how the athletes stack up. âÄúYouâÄôre competing against the best of the athletes here,âÄù Bingle said. âÄúYou have to go in and give a good mental effort and see what happens, because you know itâÄôs the end of the year, and you see how tired they are.âÄù Competition began Thursday for Minnesota when Heather Dorniden advanced to the semifinals of the 800-meter race in a deep field. During FridayâÄôs semifinal heat, she ran a time of 2 minutes, 6 seconds, which was not enough to advance her to finals. Senior Alicia Rue represented the Gophers in pole vault, matching her school record after clearing 14 feet, 3 1/4 inches on her second attempt. The vault gave her a seventh-place finish overall and was an improvement from her 14-1 1/4 vault at the NCAA Championships two weeks ago. Rue placed higher than any other collegiate vaulter in the event. âÄúIt was a really exciting moment for me just to know that even though I didnâÄôt win the NCAA meet, I still had potential to have won because I beat those other girls that day,âÄù Rue said. âÄúIt was a big honor that I got.âÄù Liz Roehrig, who claimed second place at the NCAA Championships, was unable to improve on her recent performance, finishing sixth overall in the heptathlon with 5,802 points. She started out strong with a career-best in the 100-meter hurdles running a time of 13.98 . Roehrig also had a season-best in the long jump on the second day but was unable to recover points she had lost during shot put. RoehrigâÄôs throw of 39-9 3/4 was far from her best and cost her almost 100 points compared to how far she normally throws. âÄúComing in, my whole goal was mainly just to have a better second day, and I did that, but the shot put just didnâÄôt set me up right,âÄù Roehrig said. âÄúMy score wasnâÄôt as good as nationals, but I still make a lot of mistakes and have a lot of improvements to make.âÄù Senior Aaron Studt also had a disappointing meet compared to the NCAA meet where he threw career-bests in the shot put. Studt ended the competition with no mark after fouling out on all three of his throws. Though Studt said he had tweaked his fingers after the Big Ten Championships earlier in the season, he did not attribute that to his performance here. âÄúIn a way, we all kind of had our ups and downs through this year, just trying to stay healthy,âÄù Studt said. âÄúInjuries get the best of us sometimes. I wouldnâÄôt credit my fouls this weekend to that, but it definitely played a factor in it.âÄù Though Studt said he wished he would have performed better, he said the experience of competing against the best throwers in the nation was great. Studt was the only athlete representing Gopher men at the meet though several others had qualified. Senior Matt Fisher is recovering from an ankle injury suffered at the NCAA Championships, and senior R.J. McGinnis is nursing an elbow injury. Junior Hassan Mead also qualified for the meet but did not compete and will instead be getting ready for the upcoming cross country season. Though Dorniden and Roehrig have finished competing for Minnesota track, Bingle said the two will remain an important part of the program. Dorniden will compete in the upcoming cross country season, and Roehrig will continue to train with Minnesota for future meets this summer, serving as a volunteer coach in the fall. âÄúRelationships get stronger over the years, and itâÄôs give and take both ways, but theyâÄôll be around helping the program for quite some time yet,âÄù Bingle said. Looking forward to next season, Rue said the graduating seniors will have an impact on the direction of the team. âÄúNext year will be different because we lose a lot of seniors that scored a lot of points in the past,âÄù Rue said. âÄúItâÄôs going to be a switch of leadership, and I think the girls in my grade are ready to step up and take that role.âÄù