Men finish 18th after sixth place a year ago

Harun Abda had a bad day and missed the final in the 800-meter, an event he’s dominated this year.

Megan Ryan

The men’s track and field team capped off its indoor season in somewhat disappointing fashion. The Gophers had six All-Americans, but finished in a four-way tie for 18th overall after last year’s sixth-place finish.

Heading into the NCAA indoor track & field championships, Harun Abda had the fastest time in the 800-meter run. He was reigning Big Ten champion in the 400 and 600.

The USTFCCCA Midwest region and the Big Ten conference named him their Track Athlete of the Year.

Unfortunately for the junior, his national championships didn’t live up to expectations.

Abda finished sixth in his heat during the 800 preliminaries at one minute, 49.17 seconds. His NCAA mark was more than two seconds behind his No. 1 seed time of 1:46.97.

His tenth place time overall fell two places short of a ticket to the final.

“We were disappointed for Harun in the prelim of the 800 because I think he was ready for better,” head coach Steve Plasencia said. “It just didn’t turn out that evening for him.”

Abda took the early lead in his heat but fell behind during the last100 meters. Too fast of a start and a leg cramp may be partially to blame for his sixth place, Plasencia said.

The higher elevation and drier, thinner air in Nampa, Idaho also took its toll, Plasencia said.

“Prelims are always rugged and there’s always some casualties. … For whatever reason, it wasn’t his night,” Plasencia said. “The mark in between success and failure, when you’ve got a great field together is not that much.”

Although neither Abda nor teammate Travis Burkstrand made the final, the third Gophers runner did. David Pachuta finished third in his heat which automatically qualified his eighth-place time overall for the final.

Pachuta ran to sixth place in the final with a time of 1:49.47, also almost three seconds off his No. 2 seed time of 1:46.98.

The newly crowned All-American had less than an hour after the 800 final on Saturday to prepare for the 4×400-meter relay. Abda had overnight from the preliminaries to move on from his last race

Abda ran the third-fastest split time of 45.51 in the relay.

 “I think he had a little chip on his shoulder and something to prove and helped us do really well there,” Pachuta said.

 Abda’s anchor leg sealed Minnesota’s sixth place with an overall time of 3:07.74. Pachuta, Abda, John Holton and Kevin Bradley each earned All-American honors.

All but one of the seven Minnesota athletes netted All-American titles. Hassan Mead clocked a seventh place time of 13:51.98 in the 5,000.

Micah Hegerle also collected seventh in the weight throw with a final distance of 20.76 meters.

The team as a whole tied for 18th with Syracuse, Tulsa, and Duke. The team scored 10 points compared to last year’s 27 points.

With the indoor season over, the men will begin their outdoor season next weekend at the Aztec Invitational in San Diego, Calif.