Jakobsson hurdles pain, breaks school record

Kent Erdahl

When Mikael Jakobsson steps on the track before the 400-meter hurdles at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday, he won’t be feeling much at all.

At least that’s the plan.

Although the Minnesota senior is ranked sixth in the nation with a time of 49.72 – a school record he set at the NCAA Midwest Region Championships two weeks ago – the experienced Swedish 400-meter hurdles national champion isn’t concerned about feeling nervous.

Jakobsson simply hopes to run without an all-too-familiar feeling – pain.

Early in his career at Minnesota, Jakobsson garnered attention by earning All-America status with a 49.87 in the 400-meter hurdles as a sophomore and then shredded his own personal best with 49.38 in international competition that same year.

Since then he has been battling his body while still trying to train for collegiate and international competition.

After racing with a bad back and failing to improve his personal bests as a junior, Jakobsson has struggled through a groin injury for more than half of this season.

But just before the Midwest Region race, Jakobsson found relief.

He received a shot of pain treatment for his groin and, without the sting of pain, Jakobsson quickly regained his old running form.

Despite performing so well, Jakobsson said he can still improve.

“I always felt I could run faster than I have in the past and the only thing that was holding me back was the fact that I have been hurt all the time,” Jakobsson said. “I still feel like if I can only stay healthy for a while I’ll run a lot faster.”

The prediction may be surprising, but Jakobsson is serious.

Despite recently shattering his own school record, Jakobsson said the injury prevented him from training the way he would have liked this spring.

If he continues to run pain-free at the championships, Jakobsson could provide the Gophers a huge boost in their bid for a top-10 finish.

“He’s a huge talent,” coach Phil Lundin said. “I think he’s fully capable of going after it and being one of the contenders in his race.”

400-meter friends

In addition to being a top-seeded Minnesota runner in a NCAA Championship event, Jakobsson is also part of a group of

400-meter runners looking to lead the Gophers to a top-10finish.

Jakobsson is a member of the ninth-ranked 4×400 meter relay team, which also includes Adam Steele, Mitch Potter and Robb Merritt.

Fellow seniors Steele and Potter are also looking to defend their first and third place finishes in the 400 meters at last year’s NCAA Championships.

But even as a defending national champion, Steele said it is Jakobsson who is amazing to watch.

“I love watching that kid run,” Steele said. “When he’s got his game on it doesn’t even look like there are hurdles there. When he is healthy it’s just sweet to watch.”

Staying healthy has been a lingering problem for Potter as well.

After battling injuries including a bad foot all season, Potter also looks to peak after helping the relay team to a second-place finish two weeks ago, and qualifying himself by finishing fourth in the 400.

“A lot of these guys are pretty high-profile right now and people are wondering where they have been,” Lundin said. “We’re just hoping to have a good, strong meet to show them where we are.”

With 14 athletes competing, the Gophers are poised to score well simply because of their number of competitors. But Steele said that Jakobsson and the rest of the 400-meter runners will need to set the tone.

“We’re the leaders, the majority of us are seniors and we’re the pinnacle,” Steele said. “If we do well the team’s going to fall in behind us.”

Lundin said he is confident the team will come together and that Jakobsson, Steele and Potter will lead and perform well.

Although Lundin looks forward to seeing his seniors compete in their final championships, he said saying goodbye will be harder.

“I weep on a nightly basis when I see these guys leaving me,” Lundin said. “I grieve because you don’t replace these kinds of people instantaneously. It’s been a good ride and I’m just happy I was riding.”

Three more qualify

Minnesota’s men’s track and field team received three at-large births for the NCAA Championships this week.

John Albert, Bryant Howe and Will McComb will join

the eleven athletes that previously qualified for the championships during the midwest region two weeks ago, increasing Minnesota’s number of participants to 14.

The at-large births were given to the three athletes because of their top performances during the season.

Albert and Howe, both juniors, are high jumpers who cleared matching highs of 7-1 3/4 during the season.

McComb, another junior, is a 5,000-meter runner who recorded his top time of 13:55.91 in late April.

Women promote coach

Minnesota’s women’s track and field coach Gary Wilson promoted former assistant Matt Bingle to the position of associate head coach last week.

Bingle spent the last two seasons overseeing the sprints, hurdles, jumps and multi-event disciplines of the team, as well as recruiting student-athletes and acting as staff liaison to the Compliance Office.

Before coming to Minnesota Bingle spent five years at Eastern Michigan as an assistant coach of the women’s cross country and track and field teams. He was also the head recruiting coordinator of the programs and oversaw meet management.