Netzer and Albert help Gophers leap down south at Texas Relays

Lou Raguse

When Minnesota’s men’s track team begins competition in the Texas Relays today, high jumpers Kevin Netzer and John Albert look forward to some stiff competition from other schools and a little friendly competition from each other.

The Texas Relays in Austin, Texas, is one of the biggest fan-supported track meets in the country, with an expected 30,000 track-savvy fans in attendance.

Netzer, a junior, claimed the Big Ten high jump title in 2002. But this year at the Big Ten Indoor Championships, he fell behind sophomore teammate Albert by 1 3/4 inches.

The duo said that no matter which of them comes out ahead for Minnesota, they hope the high-profile meet and top-notch competition will push them to personal-best jumps.

“This is the biggest meet for us all year, other than the Big Tens,” Netzer said.

Albert took one look at the entry list for the high jump and got a good idea how stiff the competition will be.

“It had pretty much everyone who made nationals and everyone who barely missed out,” he said.

Netzer’s personal best is 7-1 3/4, which he achieved while winning the Big Ten meet his freshman year and matched this year at the indoor Big Ten meet.

Albert’s personal best is 7-3, which won him the Big Ten indoor title on Feb. 29.

Coach Phil Lundin said that if he gets hot, Albert could win the meet. Still, he is not counting out Netzer, either.

“I think he can go 7-2 to 7-3 or better in going for his personal best,” Lundin said. “Being in an elite field oftentimes brings out the best in Kevin.”

Lundin is sending a mix of jumpers, throwers and runners to Texas.

Karl Erickson, the defending Big Ten discus champion, will anchor the throwers.

The Gophers’ highly regarded 1,600-meter relay team, which finished second in the NCAA Indoor Championships, will compete at the Texas Relays but without senior Mitch Potter.

Potter is struggling with a minor injury to his fibula, Lundin said, and the coaches are taking the conservative route before throwing him into competition.

Still, the coaches are enthusiastic about the relay team and the runner filling in for Potter.

“Aaron Buzard is a very capable replacement,” Lundin said. “I think we can still be very competitive. And, in fact, my anticipation is we’ll be right in the mix with the other teams.”