Rantanen breaks record in pole vault

Allison Younge

Sophomore pole vaulter Vesa Rantanen catapulted into the Gophers men’s track and field record books Saturday at the Texas Relays in Austin, Texas.
“Rantanen gave us an outstanding performance,” assistant coach Roy Griak said.
With an 18 foot, 5 1/4 inch vault, Rantanen claimed the Gophers new record, breaking the old mark of 18-4 3/4 set by Martin Eriksson in 1993.
The vault automatically qualified Rantanen for the NCAA outdoor championships in June. The first place finish distinguishes Rantanen as the third Minnesota athlete in history to win the pole vault at the Texas Relays.
Freshman Steffan Strand will join Rantanen at the NCAAs after automatically qualifying in the high jump. Strand finished second with a 7 foot, 4 1/2 inch jump. This mark also is a freshman outdoor school record, breaking Chris Murrell’s record jump of 7-2 set in 1990. Rantanen and Strand are the first Gophers to automatically qualify for the NCAAs this season.
“It takes some pressure off them to know that they will be in the national championships,” Griak said. “They don’t have to worry about qualifying anymore.”
Two Gophers throwers provisionally qualified for NCAAs in their respective events. Junior Chad Yenchesky earned a third place finish in the shot put with a toss of 58 feet, 3 1/4 inches, and senior Jason Schlueter placed fourth in the discus with a throw of 191-0.
Schlueter captured the discus title at last year’s Big Ten outdoor championships with a throw of 185-0. On March 29 at the Raleigh Relays, Schlueter earned a third place finish with a throw of 177-7. Saturday’s 191-0 throw marked Schlueter’s best this year.
After red-shirting last year because of a shoulder injury, senior pole vaulter Tye Harvey also provisionally qualified for the NCAA’s with a mark of 17-7 1/4. This vault earned Harvey a sixth-place finish at the relays.
Yenchesky, Schlueter and Harvey will work to solidify positions at the NCAA championships in the Gophers’ upcoming meets.
Three other Gophers competed at the Texas Relays. Gophers junior hurdler Niles Deneen placed seventh in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14 minutes, 59 seconds.
“To finish seventh shows a real fine effort on his part,” Griak said.
Senior Seth Mischke finished 11th in the pole vault with a vault of 16-7 1/2, and sophomore Jeff Marsh’s throw of 54-0 in the shot put placed him 12th.
“All in all, the meet went very well,” Griak said. “We have some exceptional athletes — as good as any in the country.”
Women’s Track and Field
Two Gophers throwers provisionally qualified for the NCAA outdoor championships at the Texas Relays. Sophomore Tina McDonald placed second in the shot put with a throw of 47-10, and senior Dani Parkos finished third in the discus with a 168-11 mark.