U track shows grit at Big Tens

Tim Klobuchar

Two Gophers set conference records at the Big Ten Men’s Indoor Track and Field Championships in Iowa City, Iowa, on Sunday.
Sophomore Ben Jensen set the Big Ten record in the heptathlon, and freshman Staffan Strand did the same in the high jump, helping Minnesota to a third-place finish in the meet.
Jensen scored 5,648 points, breaking the old record of 5,539, set by James Dunkleberger of Wisconsin last year. Strand automatically qualified for the NCAA meet with a jump of 7 feet, 4 1/2 inches.
Senior Tye Harvey also automatically qualified for NCAAs in the pole vault, winning the competition on Saturday with a school-record vault of 18-1 3/4. Minnesota placed four vaulters in the top six in the conference. Seth Mischke finished second, Jensen third, and Jonathan Anderson sixth.
The Gophers stayed strong in the field events on Sunday, with two of the top four finishers in the shot put. Sophomore Jeff Marsh finished third with a personal-best throw of 57-3, good for a provisional qualifying distance for NCAAs. Chad Yenchesky finished fourth.
Minnesota led the team competition after the first day, but was passed by Wisconsin (126 points) and Illinois (96 1/2). The Gophers finished with 83 1/3.
Women’s track and field
The Gophers improved significantly on their 10th-place finish of a year ago at the Big Ten indoor championships, getting 52 points, good for sixth.
“This bodes well for outdoors,” Gophers coach Gary Wilson said. “We’re usually three to five places better in the (Big Ten) outdoor meet.”
Wisconsin won the meet with 119 points.
Minnesota didn’t get any record-breaking performances from its athletes, but what it did get, said Wilson, was a series of gritty performances.
He was especially proud of Kari Thompson and Apasha Blocker, neither of whom won their events, but still came out ahead of expectations.
Thompson, a junior walk-on, finished eighth in the 5,000-meter run but set an indoor personal best by 1 minute, 45 seconds, with a time of 17:25.10.
“Here’s a walk-on, competing with 27 other runners, in one of the toughest distance conferences in the country, and she finishes eighth,” Wilson said. “That was fantastic.”
Blocker, a sophomore, was in fifth place in the pentathlon on Saturday heading into the 800-meter run. She passed up runners from Wisconsin and Ohio State to finish third.
“At the end of it, she was just spent,” Wilson said. “That really set the tone.”
The top Gophers finishers were Christine Gulbrandsen in the triple jump and Dani Parkos in the shot put, who both finished third. Parkos’ throw of 50 feet, 2 3/4 was a personal best. Teammate Tina McDonald also set a personal record in the event with a toss of 48-4 3/4.