Minnesota track and field program enters a new era

The men’s and women’s teams have been consolidated under the leadership of a single director and a new stadium was built.

by Babatunde Jinadu

The 2018-19 season has brought several changes for the track and field program at the University of Minnesota.

It started when former women’s team head coach Matt Bingle was named director of men’s and women’s track and field and cross country at the University of Minnesota.

According to Bingle, Minnesota was the second-to-last power-5 school to consolidate its running programs into a single team, and the decision from athletic director Mark Coyle was anticipated. The consolidated program is now on the same page as the majority of programs in the country. There are benefits in terms of better scheduling, transportation, staffing and coach-to-athlete ratio.

“There’s definitely been a different mentality having the men and women on one team, I think it’s been really cool to have new energy and perspective on the team. The men are so great, and they just add something special to our group. We have a new dynamic that I think really benefits our group,” said senior Temi Ogunrinde. “This year has been our trial — trying to figure out how to incorporate two different cultures into one. I think it will only get better next year and in the years to come.”

“The huge difference is I’ve basically had double the family to work out with and cheer for,” said captain Rachel Schow. “There’s been a lot of energy at the meets, a lot of fun in practice and a good blending with the group.”

The program also recently celebrated the opening of a brand new track and field stadium. There are already plans to host important meets, like the Big Ten Championships, in the near future. 

The Gophers needed a new stadium after their former facility was bulldozed in 2014 to make way for the Athletes Village.

When the team was without a stadium, the Gophers had to take shuttles to practice at Concordia University-St. Paul, Hamline University and St. Thomas University. 

“I had … a track my first year here, and then they tore it down, and I spent the next couple of years navigating between different colleges,” Schow said. “They were awesome for letting our team come and practice, I thank Concordia and Hamline, but being able to have our own facility is such a proud moment.”

During the team’s time without a stadium, the athletes did not let the situation affect their performances. Instead, they excelled by winning Big Ten Championships and ultimately proving they deserved a new facility.

“We’ve always had this mindset, and Bingle made it very clear. One thing I remember him saying is: ‘Give us a Walmart parking lot and we can train in that and we’ll still be the best.’ That was true because we ended up winning Big Ten’s that year,” said captain Kiley Sabin. 

The Gophers will have an opportunity to compete at home on May 1. Some athletes on the team are already looking forward to it, as they try to cap off the outdoor season in spectacular fashion.

“We just want to keep working on all of our skills and aspects of the sport. …. We’re excited to keep working ahead, not just for this upcoming outdoor season but for the years ahead, because we have a lot of young talent on the team that’s developing,” said senior Patty O’Brien.