Nationals: Ready, set, ‘Go’phers

A contingency of 13 Gophers athletes will compete next week at nationals in Iowa.

Paul Cordes

.LINCOLN, Neb. – As tornadoes ripped through central Nebraska leading up to the NCAA Midwest Track and Field Regionals in Lincoln, Gophers sophomore pole vaulter Alicia Rue created a windstorm of her own Friday.

Breaking a school record for the fourth time this season, Rue cleared a height of 13 feet, 11 3/4 inches to win her first NCAA Regional title.

“Winning Regionals was really exciting,” Rue said. “I was not expecting it at all Ö I knew I had some work to do coming into the meet, but things turned out to go pretty well.”

Rue, the 2008 indoor Big Ten champion, suffered a disappointing blow at the outdoor conference meet, clearing just 12-3 1/2.

But, the fourth-place finisher at the indoor NCAA Championships in March came into Lincoln ranked fifth among her competition, with a qualifying jump of 13-7 1/4 to her credit.

She nearly missed out on her title hopes and experienced a little déjà vu at 13-3 3/4. After missing badly on her first two attempts, Rue switched to a smaller pole to narrowly lift herself over the bar and on to an eventual title.

“I was really nervous after those first two misses,” Rue said. “That’s what happened at (outdoor) Big Tens – my first two were bad and my third was equally awful. But we made the right corrections which ended up saving me.”

Rue was in good company, with three other Minnesota vaulters joining her in competition Friday. Senior Andrea Smith punched a ticket to the NCAA Championship in Drake with a fourth-place finish on the day. Freshman Sam Sonnenberg and senior Ashley Nord finished eighth and 10th, respectively.

“It’s a good presence for Minnesota,” Rue said. “It’s good friendly competition.”

Minnesota pole vault coach Caroline White said it was “a good day.”

Dorniden wins 800, two others punch ticket

After finishing first in her preliminary heat on Friday, junior Heather Dorniden decided to stick with that strategy to win the 800-meter with a season-best time of 2 minutes 3.81 seconds.

Dorniden, now a six-time NCAA qualifier for the 800 in both indoor and outdoor competition, ran side by side with Texas senior Temeka Kincy for 100 meters before turning on the boosters with 200 meters left to break free and give herself a concrete two-second win.

Seniors Ruby Radocaj and Liz Podominick joined Dorniden on the list of qualifiers for the NCAA Championship Saturday.

Radocaj’s second place javelin throw of 177 feet, 11 inches was good enough for a brief lead during the finals, but was quickly recaptured by New Mexico junior Katie Coronado who took the lead and eventually the title on the very next throw of 178-7.

Podominick will make her fourth consecutive, and final, appearance at the NCAA Championships with her fifth-place finish in the shot put. The two-time outdoor Big Ten champion in the shot put notched a throw of 51-11 on her first attempt – just good enough to punch her ticket to Des Moines.

She’ll also compete in the discus while seniors Liz Roehrig (heptathlon) and Andrea Smith (pole vault) will also make the trip to the NCAA Championships next week.

Mead on his way to Des Moines

True freshman Hassan Mead continues to waste little time with leaving his mark on men’s track at Minnesota.

Mead followed his 2008 Big Ten Championship performance in the 5000 meters with a fifth-place finish in Lincoln, good enough to send him to Drake for a chance at a national championship.

Mead’s time of 14:01.42 came amid a stacked field, which included now three-time regional champion in the 5,000, Colorado senior Brent Vaughn, who won the event with a Midwest Region record time of 13:54.70.

Gophers’ sophomore Ben Peterson also clinched a spot in the national competition with a fifth-place finish in the pole vault.

NCAA line-up announced

In all, 13 Minnesota athletes advanced to next week’s NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.

Joining the eight athletes who earned automatic bids to nationals will be sophomore R.J. McGinnis, whose Big Ten decathlon performance was good enough for a spot at the NCAAs.

Four other Gophers received at-large bids after the regional event.

Junior Chris Rombough qualified to run in the 5,000 meters, and sophomore Aaron Studt will compete in the shot put event.

For the women’s team, junior Jamie Cheever was added to the 3,000 meter steeplechase field, while senior Christin Kingsley was named in the long jump competition.

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