Men and women head to Drake Relays to face top-notch competition

Many talented athletes will be on display in Des Moines, Iowa.

Krista Theis

The Minnesota men’s and women’s track and field teams are gearing up for a strong performance this weekend as they face difficult competition and a house full of spectators.

A group from the men’s and women’s team will be competing in the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, against some of the best athletes in the country.

Both teams are entered in all six relays, as well as a number of individual events.

Men’s coach Phil Lundin said he is excited to see his men perform in such a top-notch meet.

“It’s fun to compete on the shoulders of world-class athletes in front of 20,000 people,” he said.

Lundin explained that the meet is one of a kind for its carnival-like atmosphere.

Senior Derek Gearman agreed with Lundin and said that the amount of spectators can be a bit overwhelming because the stadium is full every day.

“It’s like a circus,” Gearman said. “I’m excited to get there, but just the size of that meet makes me a little bit nervous.”

Gearman has had three straight weeks of regional qualifying marks in the jumping events and hopes that his hot streak will carry into this weekend’s meet.

As for the team, he said the men are excited to be there and are ready to compete.

“We’re gearing up for Big Tens, and this is a crucial step, just to get in front of these people and compete,” he said.

Along with working toward the conference championships, attaining the NCAA Midwest Regional qualifying marks is another focus this weekend.

One of the team’s relay teams that will be trying to make a serious run at a qualifying time is the 4×100-meter relay. Lundin has not decided on the final runners yet, but All-American senior Aaron Buzard is sure to play a big role.

Lundin said this weekend’s meet is so exciting because of its national recognition and is unlike any other meet of the season.

“It’s one of a kind,” Lundin said. “And it’s going to be fun to be a part of.”

Women to shine in relays

The women’s team is ready to compete in the Drake Relays this weekend and to show the depth it has in numerous events.

Coach Matt Bingle said that relays are a strong point for the Gophers, and he is looking forward to seeing the chemistry come together.

“It’s a great meet and opportunity for the girls to be on relays together and take advantage of some great competition,” Bingle said.

A specific relay meet like Drake allows the women who are excelling individually in events to come together and push toward a common goal.

The Gophers’ 800-meter runners have been performing at a high level this season, and Bingle said he is excited to see them come together.

The team of sophomores Heather Dorniden, Gabriele Anderson, Jamie Cheever and senior Julie Schwengler will be the group to watch as they work toward breaking a meet record.

Minnesota is looking to put all its hard work to the test this weekend, but Bingle said they are mostly looking to enjoy themselves in the midst of the organized chaos that is the Drake Relays.

“I think the women are pumped up to go out there,” she said. “Just have some fun, because relays are fun.”