NCAA indoor championships begin for men and women

Tyler Rushmeyer

Both the men’s and women’s track teams head south this weekend to compete in the NCAA Indoor Championships.

The men’s team will send four athletes to Fayetteville, Ark., while the ninth-ranked women’s team sends its largest contingent in school history with six athletes and one relay.

The women’s team is coming off its first Big Ten Indoor championship and is looking to again make history this weekend as it aims for the program’s first top-10 finish at the NCAA tournament after taking 12th last season, currently the best in school history.

Matt Bingle, in his first year as the women’s head coach – also Big Ten’s women’s track coach of the year – said the team’s first priority was to win the Big Ten Championship, and any individual accomplishments from here on are a bonus.

“To take our second conference title in less than a year is impressive,” he said. “For nationals, we’re just looking to have a great time and let the chips fall where they will.”

This is not to say that Bingle does not realize the importance of a good showing by his team this weekend.

“Our performance reflects on our program nationally,” he said. “We’re sending athletes that we think can accomplish a lot this weekend.”

Sophomore Heather Dorniden, last year’s national champion in the 800-meter, said defending her title, the first in the program’s history, has added some pressure this season.

“Everyone feels like you should do it again,” she said. “I just want to have the best race of my life and hopefully that’s the best in the nation.”

Aside from Dorniden, the women’s team will send junior Liz Roehrig in the pentathlon, senior Emily Brown in the mile run, sophomore Jamie Cheever in the 800-meter, senior Liz Alabi in two throwing events, and Liz Podominick in the shot put.

The distance medley relay will consist of Dorniden, Brown, senior Kadian Douglas and sophomore Gabriele Anderson.

Bingle said the team’s wide range of athletes heading to the NCAA championships is a positive.

“It reflects well on the program,” he said. “We’re really sending a well-rounded group.”

For the men’s team, who finished second behind Wisconsin for the second consecutive year at the Big Ten Indoor championships, the focus shifts to some of its best individual performers.

Senior Aaron Buzard, who took two Big Ten titles at the championships, said the past weekend was one of mixed emotions.

“It was nice to take home those titles,” he said. “But I was a little down after we came up short as a team to Wisconsin again.”

Joining Buzard this weekend will be senior Derek Gearman in the high jump, sophomore Ibrahim Kabia in the 60-meter and senior Adam Schnaible in the weight throw.

Buzard, seeking the fourth All-American honor of his career, said the Minnesota group has a chance to surprise a lot of people this weekend.

“Every single guy has a chance to take his event,” he said. “We’re going to co-motivate each other and hopefully we can make an impression.”