Peterson paces men, women win 3 events in Tucson

Senior Ben Peterson cleared 17 feet, 3 inches to win the pole vault outright.

by Dane Mizutani

Snow continued to melt this weekend, with temperatures rising to 54 degrees in the Twin Cities.

However, this heat was nothing in comparison to what the menâÄôs track and field team faced at the Jim Click Invitational in Tucson, Ariz.

Minnesota head coach Steve Plasencia said the mercury topped out at 97 degrees at the meet Saturday.

The Gophers performed well under heat.

Minnesota finished second behind Big Ten rival Ohio State with a combined team score of 157.

Ben Peterson won the pole vault outright this weekend, after finishing tied for the title in the first outdoor meet of the season. Peterson cleared a height of 17 feet, 3 inches for the win, a score that impressed his coach.

âÄúHeâÄôs coming off a phenomenal indoor season being second in the NCAA,âÄù Plasencia said. âÄúAdjusting to the outdoor conditions of [pole] vaulting makes it a little more difficult, and he did a nice job with that to get the win.âÄù

Derek Storkel and Oladipo Fagbemi also had an impressive weekend. Both athletes finished second in their respective events. Storkel clocked a time of 9 minutes, 21.62 seconds in the 3,000-meter steeplechase, while Fagbemi finished second in the triple jump with a leap of 49 feet, 5.5 inches.

Sean King finished fourth in the 100-meter with a career-best time of 10.47 seconds.

Plasencia said continuing to hit personal bests and develop at each meet is important for the Gophers down the road.

âÄúWeâÄôre looking at personal development right now and how guys can help us out when we reach the Big Ten tournament,âÄù he said. âÄúSome of these guys are really starting to show that consistency that we hope to get from them, so IâÄôm pleased from that standpoint.âÄù

This was the GophersâÄô second trip to the Grand Canyon State in the last three weeks, but the travel is something Plasencia said is crucial for the teamâÄôs success this season.

âÄúIt does take a toll on people, but we need that competition and reps to get better,âÄù Plasencia said. âÄúWe need something high quality, and that is what these meets offer âÄî high-quality setting to work hard and run hard and that brings out the best in guys over some weeks.âÄù

Women finish in fourth at Jim Click Shootout

Competing in the blistering Arizona weather as well, the Minnesota womenâÄôs track and field team received notable performances from the members of its 4×100-meter relay team.

These performances were highlighted by Alena BrooksâÄô record-breaking performance in the 400-meter. Brooks won the event with a time of 53.55 seconds, 0.33 seconds faster than the previous record of 53.88 set by Rikita Butler in 2009.

Brooks continued her career day as a leg of the GophersâÄô 4×100-meter relay team. Todea-Kay Willis, Nyoka Giles, Chimerem Okoroji and Brooks built on the success they had in their first meet, placing second with a time of 44.99 seconds.

Willis added a first-place finish in the long jump with a leap of 20 feet, 1 inch and also placed second in the triple jump with a bound of 39 feet, 5 inches. Giles finished second in the 200-meter with a time of 23.93 seconds. Okoroji placed third in the 100-meter with a time of 11.69 seconds.

Elizabeth Yetzer led a group of Gophers that dominated the 3,000-meter event. Minnesota placed five athletes in the top seven. Yetzer finished the race with a time of 9 minutes, 38.44 seconds. She was followed by Stephanie Price in second, Missa Varpness in third, Ashlie Decker in sixth and Laura Docherty in seventh.

The Gophers finished fourth in the Jim Click Shootout with a team score of 155. They were preceded by Arizona, Ohio State and Washington State.

âÄúIt was a good team meet,âÄù head coach Matt Bingle said in a release. âÄúIt was exciting to see Alena break that record, but we had a lot of solid performances from a lot of people. This team has been working hard, and we still have a lot of work still ahead of us. Still, itâÄôs good to see them enjoy some successful performances.âÄù