Former Gophers present at Drake Relays

Matt Anderson

DES MOINES, Iowa – Last year, in his senior season at Minnesota, runner Adam Steele was forced out of the special division of the 400-meter dash finals at the Drake Relays with a hamstring injury.

During the weekend, he got a second chance.

And while he and current Gophers sophomore Aaron Buzard didn’t make a serious run at the title Saturday, placing sixth and eighth respectively, Steele, who finished his career with Minnesota last spring, said he was happy being able to run where he could not last year.

“I was invited to go out to Penn (Relays) as well; I said ‘Heck no’; this is my home crowd; this is where I grew up in front of,” Steele said. “This is a blast to come here. The stands are packed; I knew it was going to be a good race with (Baylor’s) Jeremy (Wariner) and Darold (Williamson), so I can’t pass that up.”

Running in the second 400 section, Steele started the race strongly. But in its last portion, Olympic gold medalists Williamson and Wariner were able to pull away from the field.

Though he was unable to win his first Drake Relays title Saturday, finishing in 47.00 seconds, Steele said running against Buzard brought back memories of running at Drake with former teammate Mitch Potter.

“It’s fun to have somebody to warm up against. It’s fun to have a roommate that you can talk to,” Steele said. “Going on the professional scene, you get roommates you never met before. It’s just a little different, so to be back and travel with the team a little bit has been a blast.”

While Saturday was another chance for Steele to win a long-awaited Drake championship, Buzard was running in his first special 400 at the relays.

He said the magnitude of the event excited him to the point of disadvantage.

Buzard ran the race in 47.03, well off his season-best time of 46.89.

“I think I got a little too worked up, just with all the big names that were going to be in it,” Buzard said. “Obviously, not in my heat, but there were a lot of big names that maybe just worked me up.”

Coach Phil Lundin said Buzard was able to run a 21.80 in the opening 200, but that quick early pace cost him at the end of the race, as Buzard faded down the backstretch.

Although the results weren’t what Lundin would have hoped for, he said having Minnesota’s past and present converge in one race was success enough.

“We had great success in the (4×400) and the 400 meters, and they’re invited because of that and because of what they’ve done,” Lundin said. “The idea, though, is to get more people in that can continue that success. That’s where recruiting comes into play and the continued development of the young kids.”