Men gaining momentum across the country

Many young members of the women’s team stood out in a watered-down St. Paul meet.

Megan Ryan

Individuals on Minnesota’s track and field teams took another step forward in the outdoor season at meets across the country this weekend.

Part of the men’s team competed at the Mt. SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif. The members of the 4×400-meter relay team were the lone Gopher winners at the meet.

The same team that competed throughout the indoor season and at the NCAA indoor championships, of Kevin Bradley, Harun Abda, David Pachuta and John Holton, finished at three minutes, 7.55 seconds.

“They’re a solid group of guys. There’s a real bond in that group,” head coach Steve Plasencia said. “We’d like to see them get to the national meet again.”

Abda said he agreed that his relay team competes well because of how close they are.

“We train with each other every day, and we are like more than friends, [we are] like brothers to each other now,” Abda said.

Jack Szmanda finished third in the decathlon at the Azusa Pacific Multi-Events in Azusa, Calif., with 7,663 points. The junior placed first in the pole vault aspect of the event with a height of 5.3 meters.

Considering this will be the only opportunity for Szmanda to compete in the decathlon before the postseason, Plasencia said he was pleased with his performance.

“He’s a very good overall athlete and a super pole vaulter,” Plasencia said. “He had some injuries last year, and this year he’s healthy, so it’s good to see.”

Three men won events at the Musco Twilight in Iowa City, Iowa. Cameron Boy won the 200-meter with a time of 21.39. In the field, Oladipo Fagbemi championed the triple jump at 14.94 meters and Quentin Mege won the hammer throw with a personal record distance of 65.54 meters.

The men will compete April 26 at the Macalester Twilight in St. Paul, Minn. The team will also travel to Des Moines, Iowa for the Drake Relays April 26-28 and to the Payton Jordan Invite on April 29 in Stanford, Calif.

Young women’s team impresses in St. Paul

Many of the women’s team’s stars rested this weekend, making room for a younger team to compete at the rainy Holst Invitational in St. Paul. The competition featured lesser teams like host Concordia-St. Paul, Minnesota-Duluth and Wisconsin-Superior.

“It was kind of a day all about effort. Obviously it wasn’t exactly great weather,” assistant coach Sarah Hesser said. “The times weren’t maybe as solid as they could have been on a better day, but everyone competed really well.”

Minnesota tallied four event winners at the meet. Three of those were underclassmen.

Cassy Opitz led the 800-meter run field with a personal- and meet-record time of 2:14.63. The sophomore was one of several Gophers running in the event, as many of the usual 1,500 runners competed in the shorter distance Saturday.

“I think [the middle-distance runners] are pretty versatile,” Opitz said. “We’re able to go up [in distance], we’re able to go down, we’re kind of switching it up a little bit this weekend.”

The rest of the winners were field athletes. Junior Jeri Johnson-Chambers led a Minnesota sweep of top-five in the hammer throw with a distance of 50.45 meters. Gophers Amy Kubat, Tina DeLakis, Caitlyn Dongoske and Devin Stanford followed.

Redshirt freshman Stanford won the discus throw and repeated her win from Georgia last weekend. She threw 42.43 meters to beat teammate Megan Petermann, who finished second.

Fellow redshirt freshman Delakis also championed the shot put with a meet record throw of 14.48 meters.

“They’re definitely starting to come around,” Hesser said of the throwing team. “We’re very pleased with their progress as being a younger group.”

The women compete next at the Hamline Twilight on April 25 in St. Paul. They will then spend April 26-28 at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, the Steve Scott Invitational in Irvine, Calif., and the Macalester Invitational in St. Paul.