Gophers send 10 to NCAA Outdoor Championships

Senior Mikael Jakobsson broke the Midwest Region record in the 400-meter hurdles.

Kent Erdahl

At the beginning of the season, Minnesota’s men’s track and field team set out to earn a top-10 finish at the NCAA Outdoor Championships.

The Gophers made strides toward that goal over the weekend by qualifying 10 individual competitors and one relay team during the NCAA Midwest Region Championships in College Station, Texas.

Coach Phil Lundin said the performances were a “mixed bag.” But with several athletes overcoming injuries, Lundin said the team was happy to qualify as many as they did for the championships in Austin, Texas from June 9-12.

“The objective was met,” Lundin said. “But not in all cases was it pretty.”

Senior Mikael Jakobsson earned the lone first-place finish for the Gophers by breaking the Midwest Region record in the 400-meter hurdles. Jakobsson overcame a nagging groin injury to register his NCAA qualifying time of 49.72 that shattered his own school record.

“I’m happy with my performance,” Jakobsson said. “I’ve been hurt the last two months, so I was just happy to run pain-free.”

Even without hurdles, 400-meters is a key distance for the Gophers.

Returning All-Americans Mitch Potter and Adam Steele, qualified for the championships by finishing fourth and fifth in the 400-meters respectively.

Steele, last year’s NCAA 400-meter champion, said despite earning the last qualifying spot, his weekend goals were met.

“I’ll see those guys that beat me again at nationals,” Steele said. “Things are starting to come together. The competition is there and now it’s game time.”

Junior Robb Merritt joined Jakobsson, Potter and Steele to qualify in the 400-meter relay. The team finished second with a time of 3:05.47, but coach Lundin said he knows the team is capable of better.

“If you get to the finals anything can happen,” Lundin said. “I think these four guys are as good as anyone in the U.S.”

Outside of 400-meter races, Minnesota received quality performances from a group of experienced athletes.

Junior Kevin Netzer cleared a career-high 7-3 1/4 to place second in the high jump, and senior Lynden Reder placed third in the hammer throw with a distance of 206-11.

Junior Andrew Carlson and senior Luke Mullranin also qualified in their respective events. Carlson finished fifth in the 5,000-meter run and Mullranin placed third in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Middle distance runners Trent Riter and Martin Robeck rounded out the weekend’s qualifiers. Riter placed fifth in the 800-meter in 1:49.24, while Robeck finished fourth in the 1,500-meter in 3:51.16.

Junior decathlete Travis Brandstatter will also participate in the championships, but he automatically qualified before the Midwest Region.

Women qualify two

Minnesota’s women’s track and field team qualified two athletes for the NCAA Championships during its portion of the Midwest Regional Championships in College Station, Texas this weekend.

Senior pole vaulter Monica Stearns earned her first trip to the championships after clearing 13-1 3/4, good for fifth place in Friday’s competition.

On Saturday, sophomore Liz Alabi also secured her first spot in the championships by placing fifth in the shot put with a career-best throw of 50-7.25.