Women’s team par for course in N.C.

Lou Raguse

Minnesota’s women’s track and field season, at this point, is like a relay team in midrace. The runner coming down the straight-away represents intense preseason training, and the runner awaiting the baton represents competitive outdoor meets.

The Duke Invitational in Durham, N.C., over the weekend was like the handoff, and this combination resulted in some of the team’s personal best performances and a couple dips in results.

“Pretty typical for this time of year,” coach Gary Wilson said. “People are still getting that last bit of training in before they unload. But it was a good little meet for us.”

The Gophers’ top individual performance Saturday was Melissa Steele’s fifth-place finish in the 400-meter hurdles.

But more important than her place was the fact that her time, 1:01.12, is two seconds better than last year at this time.

“I know she’ll run under 60 (seconds),” Wilson said. “Just how far, we’ll have to see.”

The top finish for the Gophers on Friday was junior Melissa Woltman, who finished first in the 100-meter at 12.52 seconds.

Wilson said he used some runners in developmental sessions Friday, then in the regular events Saturday.

“It’s kind of a meet to get everybody competing a couple times,” Wilson said. “More of a learning thing.”

Sophomore Jen Hess competed in her first 3,000-meter steeplechase and notched fifth place with a time of 11:02.40.

The Gophers’ top relay team was the 1,600-meter squad, which just missed NCAA regional qualification with a time of 3:45.68. That finish was good for third place at Duke.

“You’re going to have some ups and downs at this point,” Wilson said. “But we have a good group of kids working hard. We’re doing well.”

Men making strides

Minnesota’s men’s track and field team sent five individuals and one relay team to the Texas Relays in Austin, Texas, over the weekend, and each of the athletes earned at least a top-10 finish.

Still, coach Phil Lundin sees plenty of room for improvement this season.

“You always hope for better results,” Lundin said. “But I guess we’re about where we were last year at this time.”

Freshman Aaron Buzard stepped into the 1,600-meter relay team for the injured Mitch Potter and helped the runners to a sixth-place finish.

Lundin said he would like Potter to return for the Oregon Invitational on Saturday. However, it is more likely he’ll be out until the Drake Relays on April 21-24.

“Without Mitch, it’s difficult to compete with the Baylors and so forth in the (1,600 relay),” Lundin said. “But overall, it was a reasonable showing for the first outdoor meet.”

Lundin said he was very pleased with his high jumpers in the Texas Relays.

Sophomore John Albert finished second with a leap of 7-1 3/4. Teammate Kevin Netzer was 1 1/4 inches behind him and took seventh place.

Senior thrower Lynden Reder competed Thursday, placing fifth in the hammer throw with a 62.67-meter toss. The throw was a personal best and a new Minnesota record in the event.

“Overall, it’s always a mixed bag,” Lundin said. “But I think we walked away with results that say we’re headed in the right direction.”