Gophers hope to see improvement during trip to Alabama

Krista Theis

A large portion of Minnesota’s men’s track and field team is traveling to Alabama this weekend to compete in the Auburn Tiger Track Classic on Saturday.

The rest of the team was scheduled to join the women’s team at the Hamline Invitational this Friday; however, the meet was cancelled due to the cold weather expected to sweep through the Twin Cities.

Coach Phil Lundin said it is unfortunate that the Hamline meet was cancelled because it would have been good for developmental reasons.

“Any time a meet is canceled you take away the opportunity to evolve,” he said.

Minnesota weather has seemed to be the Gophers’ biggest hurdle so far this season, which is why they are excited to be heading south once again for decent conditions.

This weekend’s competition in Alabama is going to be the first outdoor action many Minnesota competitors have seen so far this season, and Lundin said he is excited and can feel a buzz throughout the team.

“There is the usual nervousness of the first outdoor competition,” he said. “But we’re looking forward to warmer weather, competing against good teams.”

Four Big Ten teams that the Gophers will face are Indiana, Purdue, Penn State and Wisconsin. There will also be a handful of others on hand from different conferences.

Lundin said one of the team’s goals for the weekend is to focus on getting its regional qualifying marks.

Members of the team said they wanted to take advantage of the nice weather down south, where they can try to attain their qualifying times.

Senior Aaron Buzard will be competing in his first outdoor meet of the season and plans on leading the team to its goal.

“It’s most of the guys’ goal to get that out of the way because it takes off the pressure for the rest of the season,” he said.

Buzard, who has been dealing with a small hamstring injury as of late, said he wants to go out there and get a qualifying mark, but isn’t going to go for anything too big.

Buzard’s teammate, sophomore Ibrahim Kabia, will not be competing this weekend, but said he is looking forward to seeing how well Buzard does.

Kabia said he is also hoping to see senior Derek Gearman add a second personal qualifying mark this weekend, after attaining his first last weekend.

Gearman qualified in the triple jump event last weekend at the Bobby Lane Arlington Invitational in Texas, and will be going for the same feat this weekend in the long jump.

Although it is the first competition for most of the team, Lundin said he is confident that many of the athletes are capable of qualifying.

He has high expectations for the pole vault crew and thinks they should have no problem reaching the heights necessary to claim a spot for the NCAA Midwest Championships at the end of May.

Another reason Lundin is excited about this weekend’s meet is that it will give him a chance to see how the men are able to score in a Big Ten setting. This meet might show the Gophers where they stand in comparison to their competition and gauge how much more work needs to be done over the next two months.

“We kind of measure the success rate on how many regional qualifying marks we get in the first meet,” Lundin said. “But we need to put ourselves in the position to contribute to team totals at the Big Ten meet.”