Strong last meet caps track season

Allison Younge

After five long years of grueling training, frustrating corrections and continued progress, Gophers thrower Jason Schlueter finally realized his dream of becoming an All-American.
“It’s been my goal for five years, and it finally came true,” Schlueter said. “If you’re an All-American, you’re kind of remembered forever. Records are constantly being set and broken, but they can’t take that All-America honor away.”
On June 6, at the NCAA Track and Field Championships in Bloomington, Ind., Schlueter, a native of New London, Wis., placed sixth in the discus with a throw of 193 feet to earn the All-America title.
Along with Schlueter, international standouts Staffan Strand, Benjamin Jensen and Vesa Rantanen helped propel Minnesota to a ninth-place finish with 19 1/2 points — the Gophers’ highest NCAA outdoor finish in 26 years. Arkansas won the national meet for the sixth straight year with 55 points.
A top 10 finish was not likely for Minnesota after losing the talents of senior pole vaulter Tye Harvey. On May 22, Harvey severely broke his wrist in a van accident on the way to the Big Ten Championships in Champaign, Ill. The injury sidelined him for the Big Ten and NCAA meet.
Coach Phil Lundin praised the Gophers’ four-man effort.
“I thought if they competed the way they had during the season, we could maybe earn a top 10 finish,” Lundin said. “Then we lost Tye and it meant that all four guys would have to be on — and they were. They did very well.”
The youngest member of Minnesota’s NCAA team earned the Gophers’ highest finish. Freshman Staffan Strand, a native of Upplands-Vasby, Sweden, placed second in the high jump with a mark of 7 feet 2 1/4 inches, earning eight team points for the Gophers.
Although this jump was three inches shy of Strand’s personal best, Lundin credited him with remaining focused throughout the competition, despite rainy weather.
“Nobody was jumping well in the conditions that day,” Lundin said. “The guy who placed first got really hot, but it takes a lot to finish second in the nation.”
Jensen (Mandal, Norway) followed up Strand’s performance with a third-place finish in the decathlon. He set a school record and notched the second-best decathlon score in Big Ten history with 7,716 points. Jensen, a sophomore, placed second in the 110 meter hurdles (14.59) and the pole vault (16-8 3/4) en route to his third-place finish, earning six team points for Minnesota.
Rantanen (Virrat, Finland) continued the Gophers’ hot streak by placing sixth in the pole vault with a mark of 17-8 1/2, despite being injured. Rantanen, a sophomore, suffered a pulled hamstring during the competition, which affected his pole vault performance.
“The injury certainly limited what he could do,” Lundin said. “But any time an athlete finishes in the top 10 in the nation, it’s pretty good.”
It took only four of the Gophers’ track and field athletes to earn a ninth-place finish at the NCAAs. While Schlueter’s All-America dream was reached as a senior, the remaining three Gophers will return in hopes of heightening their accomplishments and anchoring next year’s squad. Lundin is carefully optimistic.
“On paper everything looks good,” Lundin said. “But I’ve been in this business too long to make any big speculations for next season. We just want to hold it together and stay positive.”