U takes second at Big Tens

Susan Filkins

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Gophers head men’s track and field coach Phil Lundin became a little nervous on Friday morning when part of his team did not arrive in Champaign, Ill., for the Big Ten championships as scheduled.
Lundin and a few athletes left on Thursday to prepare for the decathlon competition at the Illinois Outdoor Track and Field Stadium, which began on Friday. The remainder of the team drove to Champaign after flying to Chicago, but one of the team vans was in an accident, leaving a shaken group of Minnesota athletes and one injured senior.
Pole vaulter Tye Harvey was the injured Gopher. He suffered a broken wrist from the accident and was flown back to Minneapolis on Saturday morning for immediate surgery. A great deal of frustration and chaos followed the accident.
“We’ve had to deal with all the problems of car rental agencies and insurance and emergency rules and the transport of large groups, and it’s been hell,” Lundin said. “But people have been very rational and very calm, and I’m really impressed with the kids and the staff.”
Despite losing Harvey, the Gophers pulled together and finished second with 107 team points. Defending Big Ten champion Wisconsin won the meet with 135 points.
“The guys have really pulled together, and I’m really pleased with how they have been able to stand up and put it on the line,” Lundin said.
The highlight of the weekend came on Saturday, when the Gophers throws team swept the top four places in the discus competition. Senior Jason Schlueter successfully defended his Big Ten title with a throw of 198 feet, 3 inches. His monster throw set a new Big Ten record and automatically qualified him for the NCAAs to be held in two weeks.
Following Schlueter was freshman Adam Reed in second, junior Chad Yenchesky taking third and sophomore Jeff Marsh rounding out the sweep.
After the throws team compiled a large number of team points with the discus sweep, Minnesota left the first day of competition in first place.
Also helping the Gophers to the first day lead was senior decathlete Seth Mischke, who took third place in the 10-event competition with 7,021 points.
“We recruited Mischke for the pole vault and decathlon, but in the past, we’ve had so many problems dealing with his ankle to get him the necessary training,” Lundin said. “He’s very well grounded in all events. He provides great senior leadership, and I’m going to miss him dearly.”
Senior distance runner Rick Obleman capped off his final conference meet for the Gophers by taking second place in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Obleman’s time of 8 minutes, 56.48 seconds was good enough to provisionally qualify him for NCAAs for the second time this season.
The rest of the first day was filled with preliminary heats of distance races, sprints and relays. Minnesota qualified in several events, namely the 110 hurdles, where all but one Gopher advanced to the final round.
Junior Niles Deneen, sophomore Ben Jensen, and sophomore Vesa Rantanen all competed in the hurdle finals on Sunday. Deneen, who broke the school record in the preliminary race clocking a 14.06, finished fourth with an NCAA provisional qualifying time of 13.95, breaking the school record again.
“Niles Deneen is a Minnesota guy who is developing into a national-caliber sprint hurdler and that is very, very satisfying because they usually consider us a bunch of slow-footed regular guys,” Lundin said.
The winner of the race was Wisconsin standout senior sprinter Reggie Torian, who finished with a time of 13.24 and automatically qualified for NCAAs.
Gophers freshman high jumper Staffan Strand cleared the bar at 7 feet, 3 3/4 inches to become a Big Ten champion.
Then the throws team returned for the second day of competition in the shot put. Yenchesky entered the event as one of the favorites and ended up taking second in the shot put with a throw of 59-2 3/4.
Sophomore Vesa Rantanen failed to defend his Big Ten vaulting title of a year ago. Competing head to head with Purdue junior Randy Miller, Rantanen cleared the bar at 17-5 1/2, but Miller successfully vaulted 18-1 1/4, setting a new Big Ten record and winning the Big Ten championship.
Minnesota’s best performance in the relays was the 4×100 team of Fred Rodgers, Adam Freed, Tim Van Voorhis and Shelton Benjamin. They took fourth place with a time of 41.13 seconds.
For the second consecutive year, Minnesota will have to settle for second place in the Big Ten behind the powerful Wisconsin team. Lundin said considering all the turmoil surrounding the accident and the loss of Harvey, the team pulled together fairly well. He said next year the Gophers will be prepared to challenge the Badgers even more.
“Wisconsin has been over the last few years the premier team in cross country and track,” Lundin said. “To take second to them is not a disgrace, but I have one goal and that is to beat the Badgers. That’s our goal anyway.”

Note: Wisconsin’s title completes the third straight year they have swept Big Ten titles in cross country, indoor track and outdoor track.
Following Wisconsin and Minnesota in the team competition was Michigan in third place with 97 points, a two-way tie between Illinois and Ohio State with 83, Indiana in sixth with 62, Penn State in seventh with 56, Iowa in eighth with 46, Purdue in ninth compiling 44 and Michigan State rounded out the pack with 27.
Legendary track Olympian Jesse Owens’ long jump record was tied on Saturday by Iowa sophomore Bahir Yamini, who recorded a jump of 26-8 1/4.