Dorniden tallying records in first month of career

Robert Mews

She might as well be certified in record breaking.

That is the case for Minnesota women’s track and field freshman Heather Dorniden.

Her résumé in the past 10 days alone: 400-meter school record, 800-meter school record, 4-by-400-meter relay school record squad member, and 800-meter distance medley relay school record squad member.

Dorniden also was named the Big Ten Athlete of the Week last week.

Maybe more impressive might be that her breakout came against the toughest competition thus far this season for the 18th-ranked Gophers.

“I think she’s got some good workouts like a lot of the ladies have,” assistant coach Matt Bingle said. “We’ve been training well.”

There might be more to it than training though.

“I think she kind of epitomizes the whole team, because everybody this year is really rallying, certainly because of the Jack situation,” coach Gary Wilson said about how former equipment manager Jack Johnson has impacted the team this year.

Johnson was diagnosed in 2005 with terminal liver cancer.

Yet Dorniden is breaking school records at a level incomparable to her Minnesota teammates’.

At Notre Dame it was the 800-meter and 800-meter distance medley relay records.

That helped her earn Big Ten recognition.

She followed up that performance at Ames, Iowa, with the 400-meter dash, and 4-by-400-meter relay records.

“It’s pretty cool to do as a freshman,” Dorniden said. “I hope none of the old people that hold these records get mad at me.”

Dorniden said that when she came to Minnesota that she had looked at those records as a goal to beat by the time she graduated.

“When it happened this early, it’s kind of encouraging just to think of what my future holds still,” Dorniden said.

Dorniden added that she broke these records because the increased competition helped her chase down runners.

“I like to be by someone and then try and catch them at the end,” Dorniden said.

Wilson said that is a sign of a great athlete.

“Some kids don’t rise to that level, but she is a class kid and hard worker,” Wilson said. “It’s just the great athlete can always respond to the level of competition no matter what it is.”

Although Dorniden has broken two school records, and helped break another two, she has not crossed the finish line in first place.

That might be OK with Wilson.

“The Big Ten meet is all about points,” Wilson said about the Big Ten Indoor Championships in two weeks. “I don’t care if she runs 2:25, as long as she scores well.”

What she has done thus far is cement her name in the Minnesota record book.

“Does she have great potential down the road? Of course,” Wilson said.