Slowed by

Jim Schortemeyer

MADISON, Wis. — It was supposed to be difficult for the Gophers to win the Big Ten men’s indoor track and field championships over the weekend. But when half of the team became injured or ill, it became all but impossible.
The defending Big Ten champion Gophers finished third at the championships with 83.5 points, behind Michigan State (107) and Illinois (89).
Everything was clicking for the front-runners, but little went right for the Gophers. Sickness and torn muscles hobbled Minnesota throughout the two-day competition.
“We had injuries to Jason Owens and Fred Rodgers,” coach Phil Lundin said. “Without Fred and those others, it was too much. But that’s sports for you, and we’re looking to rebound in the spring.”
The Gophers’ showing wasn’t due to a lack of effort. Junior Glenn Lindqvist had only two hours sleep before the heptathlon started but still managed a second-place finish.
“It’s been a roller coaster,” he said. “This whole indoor season we’ve been hurt. And now we have colds and the flu.”
Flu-stricken senior Sami Zaltonem is ordinarily one of Minnesota’s best distance runners, but with a 103-degree fever he wasn’t a factor. He tried to run Saturday in the 3000-meter but finished well behind the leaders.
Zaltonem wasn’t the only one hampered by bad luck. Sophomore thrower Justin Asher tore a tendon in his throwing arm, Rodgers had foot problems and Owens tore a calf muscle.
“We’re in pieces,” junior Ty McCormick said. “We’re pretty bad in terms of injuries.”
The Gophers got 48 of their points from just three events: the pole vault, high jump and heptathlon. But even in Minnesota’s strong events, things went wrong.
Freshman Lyndon McDowell was speeding toward a top-five finish in the heptathlon before he failed to clear a height in the pole vault, which knocked him out of the top ranking.
Even the Gophers high jumpers weren’t up to the standards they set last spring, when Minnesota took four of the top six places. Junior Staffan Strand won, but junior jumper Tyler McCormick was disappointed with the team’s one-four-seven finish.
“This year was unusual in that seven guys went over seven feet,” McCormick said. “We didn’t do that well.”
The meet did yield a few victories. Strand provisionally qualified for the NCAA championship while junior Ben Jensen won the pole vault and heptathlon.
Still, good results were few and far between for a team that might have missed out on at least 15 points because of injuries. The rough indoor season has left the Gophers anxious for spring air.
“I can’t imagine us being this hurt or as down for the outdoor championship,” McCormick said. “We’re ready to go outside.”

Big Ten men’s indoor
track and field championships
Team order of finish:
1. Michigan State 107
2. Illinois 89
3. Minnesota 83.5
4. Indiana 76
5. Purdue 73
6. Wisconsin 69
7. Iowa 68
8. Ohio State 55
9. Michigan 50.5
10. Penn State 30