Rantanen automatically qualifies for NCAAs again

Allison Younge

The Gophers men’s track team’s record-holding pole vaulter Vesa Rantanen, thrower Jason Schlueter and the 4×110 meter shuttle hurdle relay squad each captured first-place finishes at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa this weekend. Minnesota’s three title performances tie its 1948 school record for most wins at the Drake meet.
“It was an excellent competition, which featured over 8,000 athletes on 265 teams,” Gophers assistant coach Roy Griak said.
Rantanen, already an NCAA automatic qualifier in the vault, reached that standard for the second time this season with a mark of 18 feet, 1 1/4 inches. His first qualifying vault of 18-5 1/4, set at the Texas Relays (Austin, Texas) on April 5, is the all-time highest pole vault in Gophers history. Rantanen also ran the third leg of the title-winning 4×110 shuttle hurdle relay team.
“Vesa gave a fantastic performance,” Griak said. “He had to jog across the track from pole vaulting to make it in time for the relay. And after winning the relay, he went back to win the pole vault.”
Rantanen, as well as sprinters Aaron Wheatcraft, Seth Mischke and Niles Deneen combined forces in the shuttle hurdle relay to take first with a time of 58.31.
“We got a little behind in the first and second legs,” Griak said. “Vesa made up some time in the third and Niles Deneen came on in the fourth to nip Kansas at the tape — it was very exciting.”
The title marks the first Minnesota relay win at Drake in 42 years. The last time was in 1955 when the 440-yard relay team earned a first place finish for the Gophers.
Schlueter captured the Drake discus title for a second straight year. His throw of 186-11 secured the win and provisionally qualified him for the NCAAs for the third time this season. Last year at Drake, Schlueter won the discus with a record-breaking toss of 198-3. He also won the Big Ten discus title last season with a throw of 185-0.
Several other Gophers also displayed strong performances at the relays. Senior pole vaulter Tye Harvey’s mark of 17-8 1/2 was good for third place in the event. His performance provisionally qualified him for the NCAAs for the second time this season.
Senior distance runner Rick Obleman and freshman high jumper Staffan Strand placed fourth in their respective events. Obleman finished the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a time of 9:00.67, and Strand’s mark of 7 feet, 3 inches provisionally qualified him for the NCAAs. Strand automatically qualified for NCAAs on April 5 at the Texas Relays with a jump of 7-4 1/2.
Junior Chad Yenchesky finished fifth in the shot put with a throw of 57-9 3/4 while freshman teammate Adam Reed finished sixth in the discus with a toss of 172-9.

Note: Sophomore decathlete Benjamin Jensen did not compete at the Drake Relays because of a pain in his shins.