Men’s track claims Big Ten outdoor title

Brett Angel

Minnesota’s men’s track and field team reclaimed its status as the conference’s best team a week ago by winning the Big Ten outdoor championships in record-setting fashion.

Competing on their home track at Bierman Field, the Gophers racked up a meet record 168.5 points to win their first outdoor conference title in four years.

“If we hadn’t won, I’d probably be headed for the 10th Avenue Bridge,” Minnesota coach Phil Lundin said.

Lundin could joke afterward, but finishing atop the conference has been no laughing matter for Minnesota in recent years. The Gophers finished just 4.5 points behind first-place Wisconsin at last year’s conference meet, and then suffered a similar disappointment at this year’s indoor championships -losing out to the Badgers by just two points.

Junior Mitch Potter was a big reason Minnesota captured its first outdoor championship since winning back-to-back titles in 1998 and 1999. Potter earned first-place

finishes in the 400-meter dash (46.39) and the 4×400-meter relay (3:09.06). He also finished third in the 200-meter dash (21.18).

The Gophers got just one more first-place finish – sophomore Karl Erickson in the discus (186 feet 4 inches) – but still managed to break Michigan’s meet record of 160 points, set in 1980.

Minnesota did get five second-place finishes and scored in every event except the pole vault, which the Gophers did not enter.

“It’s something that’s pretty rare these days (to score in every event),” Lundin said. “Especially in the age of (fewer) scholarships and specialization.”

Purdue finished second with 148 points. Wisconsin, who had won the past three Big Ten outdoor championships, finished sixth with 61 points.

Minnesota will next compete in the NCAA Midwest Regional in Lincoln, Neb., beginning Friday.

Women’s track and field

Led by senior Shani Marks, Minnesota finished ninth in the Big Ten outdoor championships last week. The Gophers totaled 47 points – two better than last-place Michigan State; Northwestern does not compete in Big Ten track and field.

Marks won the triple jump with a record leap of 44 feet 11 inches – more than one foot longer than the previous meet record. She also finished second in the 400-meter hurdles (59.27) and ran a leg of the second-place 4×400-meter relay team (3:40.41).

Minnesota freshman Kou Luogon placed third in the 400-meter dash (54.68) and in doing so qualified for the NCAA regional.

Michigan won the meet with 137 points and completed its sweep of the triple-crown. The Wolverines also won the Big Ten cross country championships last fall and the indoor track and field title earlier this spring.

Indiana and Penn State tied for second with 124 points.

The Minnesota women will travel to Lincoln, Neb., for the NCAA Midwest Regional beginning Friday.

Softball

Minnesota opened the NCAA tournament with a 3-0 victory over Cal State Northridge at Hillenbrand Stadium in Tucson, Ariz., but lost its final two regional games to end its season in disappointing fashion.

Junior pitcher Piper Marten broke her own Minnesota single-season strikeout record by fanning 14 batters in the first game against the Matadors. Marten finished the season with 311 strike outs.

However, the Gophers ran into a difficult opponent in their second game, facing top-ranked Arizona on its home field. Minnesota was able to muster just two hits off Arizona pitcher Alicia Hollowell and was shutout 4-0.

The Gophers then committed three errors in their final game of the year, a 4-2 loss to Boston College on May 16.

Minnesota finished the season fifth in the Big Ten with a 12-8 conference record (37-21-1 overall). The Gophers qualified for their second consecutive national tournament, but went just 1-4 in postseason play.

Rowing

Minnesota ended its season by finishing 10th of 21 teams at the South/Central Regional sprints in Oak Ridge, Tenn., on May 18.

The Gophers scored nine points as a team, but failed to qualify a boat for the NCAA championships, to be held this weekend at Eagle Creek Reservoir in Indianapolis.

Minnesota’s best chance for a NCAA championship qualifier was its first Varsity Eight boat of Kirsten Kosloske, Jessi Johnson, Jill Peters, Sam Wangsgard, Melissa Roche, Heidi Rose, Amber Riopel, Jackie Gagner and Katherine Nelson as coxswain. But the Gophers finished fourth in their race with a time of 6:32.5 – five seconds behind first-place Iowa.

A total of 12 teams from four regions qualify for the NCAAs, with an additional four Varsity Eight boats earning spots.

Ohio State was the top finisher in the central region. Michigan and Michigan State will also represent the Big Ten in the national championships.

Men’s tennis

Minnesota’s lone qualifier for the NCAA singles championship, junior Aleksey Zharinov, lost his opening-round match to San Diego State’s Oliver Maiberger last Wednesday in Athens, Ga.

In a match interrupted by rain, Maibeger defeated Zharinov 6-2, 6-3 to move on to the tournament’s second round.

Zharinov, the No. 52 ranked player in the country, lost to No. 42 Maiberger for the third time in his career. Maiberger has not lost a set in any of those matches.

Zharinov finished the season with a team-best 33-11 record in singles play.