Gophers send primarily distance runners to relays in California

The Mt. SACS relays boast high-caliber competition.

Dane Mizutani

It seems the Minnesota menâÄôs track and field team canâÄôt shake the heat. It will travel to a tropical climate again this week, but this time the scene will not be Arizona.

The Gophers will participate in the Mt. SAC Relays this week in Walnut, Calif., looking to build on what has already been a successful outdoor season.

However, not every athlete will make the trip this weekend, as it will be primarily a distance meet for the Gophers.

Minnesota head coach Steve Plasencia said he is excited, as this meet will give his team the opportunity to compete against top talent.

âÄúWeâÄôre ready to go out there and compete,âÄù Plasencia said. âÄúIt will be a good chance for the guys that weâÄôre taking to get in and rub elbows with some good competition.âÄù

Harun Abda will run in the 800-meter this week, an event he found success with last weekend in Arizona. Abda placed second in the 800-meter at the Sun Angel Classic with a career-best time of 1 minute, 48.54 seconds. Abda was also a member of the 4×400-meter relay team that captured the title in the Cactus State.

Plasencia said the Gophers are deep in that event, sending seven athletes to run in the 800-meter.

Other athletes will be running in longer distance events in California.

Hassan Mead will be running the 5,000-meter, and Plasencia said the team is anxious to track his comeback.

Mike Torchia and Pieter Gagnon will compete in the 10,000-meter. Torchia placed third in the 1,500-meter earlier in the season at the Baldy Castillo Invitational with a time of 3 minutes, 54.01 seconds.

The Gophers have already sent decathletes to the Mt. SAC Relays âÄî they arrived early Tuesday morning.

âÄúWe have some good decathletes and a veteran presence there,âÄù Plasencia said. âÄúWeâÄôre interested to see what they can do.âÄù

There will also be a group of athletes competing closer to home this weekend at St. Thomas, but this meet has been pushed back to Sunday due to weather.

Women wait until Friday to head to California

This weekend will also provide the Minnesota womenâÄôs track and field team the opportunity to travel to Walnut, Calif., to compete in a high-caliber meet.

The Gophers will send their distance group to run in the Mt. SAC Relays.

âÄúIâÄôm excited because they didnâÄôt compete last weekend, so IâÄôm excited to see where theyâÄôre at. ItâÄôs a good meet for them âÄî they will be pushed and get a good test this weekend,âÄù Bingle said. âÄúIt will be a national caliber meet, so it will be a good opportunity to see where theyâÄôre at and see what kind of work we have left for them to do the rest of the season.âÄù

Elizabeth Yetzer will be competing in the 1,500-meter at the Mt. SAC Relays, looking to continue her season success following her victory in the 3,000-meter at the Jim Click Shootout.

Stephanie Price, an All-American in cross country for the 2010 season, will be running in her first career 10,000-meter this weekend in California, and Jamie Dittmar and Katie Hill will run in the 800-meter.

This will be a meet that will show how Minnesota stacks up against national competition and will also give the team a chance to gain momentum.

âÄúThis is a meet where we take our kids to try and qualify for the regional meet and prepare for the end of the season,âÄù assistant coach Gary Wilson said.

After weeks of tune-up, the Mt. SAC Relays is where Wilson wants his runners push beyond what theyâÄôve done to this point.

âÄúOur Arizona meet two weeks ago was more to get the kinks out, but this meet is designed to run great times and really go after it,âÄù Wilson said.