Big Ten championships await teams

by Jack Satzinger

The Gophers have been competing for only about six weeks, but the Big Ten Men’s and Women’s Indoor Track and Field Championships are already here.

“In track and field, the indoor season goes by so fast, it’s a scramble for everybody to get ready,” head men’s coach Steve Plasencia said.

It may have been a mad dash, but the Gophers men’s team appears to be ready for the indoor finale.

In the team’s tune-up meet last weekend, senior Zach Siegmeier set a personal record in the pole vault. That same night, senior Jon Lehman broke his own school record in the weight throw.

It appears Minnesota is peaking at the right time, and the Gophers are looking to win this season.

“As long as I jump how I’ve been jumping, I feel pretty good about my chances to put myself in a position to win,” Siegmeier said.

But Siegmeier won’t be the sole focus.

While athletes covet individual titles, track and field is a team sport — and the Gophers want to get back to being the best team in the Big Ten.

Minnesota had a dominant string of three straight Big Ten indoor championship wins from 2009-11, but the team hasn’t won one since.

“It’s tough this year because we’re a lot younger,” Siegmeier said. “We have to preach to these guys and the younger class what it’s going to take to win.”

In order for the Gophers women’s track and field team to capture its first Big Ten indoor title since 2009, it will need to get the most out of some of the team’s strong points.

“The people that have been consistent coming in just have to keep doing what they’re doing,” head women’s coach Matt Bingle said.

Those impact areas this year have come from the Gophers’ deep distance crew, their multi-sport event athletes and their group of pole vaulters .

Then there’s the middle-distance dynamic senior duo of Megan Geyen and Alena Brooks.

Geyen, who nearly broke the program’s 400-meter run record two weeks ago, said that was the best she’s felt all season.

And Brooks said earlier this season that she’s become more focused this year and, in turn, is able to stay fully engaged for an entire race.

That will be important for her and the rest of the Gophers women’s track and field team this weekend because Bingle said he expects a lot from his squad at the Big Ten meet.

“The goal is always to be in the top three,” he said. “That’s the standard we’re looking for.”