Three meets, one large helping of success for U

Lou Raguse

Minnesota’s men’s track and field team split into three parts over the weekend, with some athletes staying home at the St. Thomas Invitational, others bussing to the Iowa Twilight meet and the distance runners flying to Stanford.

The Gophers got top efforts at all three meets with what coach Phil Lundin called, “another step in the right direction.”

“Overall, it shows things are generally coming together,” Lundin said. “People’s attitudes, the training and the way people are performing in competition indicate we should be ready to battle the Badgers in a couple weeks at the Big Ten meet.”

At the St. Thomas Invitational, Lynden Reder, Steffen Landgraf and Mitch Potter all earned first-place finishes.

Reder’s winning hammer throw of 215-9 once again bested his own school record and improved his NCAA qualifying mark.

A week ago, Reder threw 203-4 at the Drake Relays to place fourth. But Reder spent two days that week at the ARCO Olympic Training Center in San Diego. where he worked one-on-one with the hammer throw world-record holder on his technique.

Landgraf landed a career-best 24-1.75 mark in the long jump, and Mitch Potter won the 200- and 400-meter dashes with times of 21.22 and 45.77.

“Mitch ran some nice races in a relaxed manner,” Lundin said. “That indicates his injuries are reduced, and he’s able to run more freely.”

The bulk of Minnesota’s team competed in the Iowa Twilight meet Saturday.

There, four Gophers won their events, led by Karl Erickson, who threw a personal best 63-8.5 in the shot put. Erickson also placed second in the discus with a toss of 178-11.

“Karl finally hit his rhythm,” Lundin said. “He’d been struggling a little bit, so this is a good surge toward the conference, regional and national.”

Other first-place finishers in Iowa were Kevin Netzer in the high jump, Jason Swenson in the javelin and Neil Hanson in the 1,500-meter run.

Lundin called Hanson’s performance satisfying because he competed strategically well.

The rest of Hanson’s distance peers competed in the Cardinal Invitational at Stanford, where the main focus was on individual times for NCAA qualification.

Last week, distance coach Steve Plasencia said everyone on the team had a chance to earn a lifetime best performance at Stanford and he was right – five Gophers earned personal records.

Senior Andrew Carlson ran the 5,000-meter run in 13:48.00 – the second-best time in Gophers history.

“He beat my lifetime best as a Gopher, so that was good to see,” said Plasencia, who ran for Minnesota from 1974-78.

“The Big Ten is a different kind of meet,” Plasencia said. “It’s not about times, it’s about placing. We’ll see what we can put together as a team.”

Women’s update

Before the Iowa Twilight meet Saturday, Minnesota’s women’s track and field coach Gary Wilson told his team that during this time of year, he can get very ornery if athletes do not give their all in competition.

The Gophers responded by winning the Iowa Twilight and earning four first-place finishes.

“They competed hard, and I was happy to see that,” Wilson said. “It’s nice to win.”

Sophomore Liz Alabi led the Gophers’ individual performances by winning the hammer throw with a personal-best mark of 178-9. That mark was a 38-foot improvement from what she was throwing last season.

“Lynne Anderson – working her magic, again,” Wilson said of the throwing coach’s work with Alabi.

Alabi also finished second in the shot put with a personal-best throw of 48-6.25.

“I feel like things are starting to come together now,” Alabi said. “It’d be nice to get to 53 feet in the shot and keep improving in the hammer.”

Three other Gophers also took first place at the Iowa Twilight – Sarah Nelson in the long jump, Monica Stearns in the pole vault and Nicole Kopari in the discus.

Wilson said Nelson was “sick as a dog” but still pulled together and competed, and Stearns just missed setting another school record – the bar wobbling and falling as she lay in the pit.

On the whole, Wilson was happy with his team stepping up their performances from the Drake Relays last weekend.

“I told them it’s a 365-day-a-year job,” Wilson said. “If you don’t, you’re going to get left home. The young kids are starting to figure that out and starting to respond.”

Wilson will take 31 athletes to the Big Ten Championships on May 14 at Purdue.

Next weekend, the Gophers will host the Minnesota Last Chance meet, a senior and parent appreciation meet and a last chance to prepare for the Big Ten Championships.