Gophers post strong results at Drake Relays

by Monica Wright

DES MOINES, Iowa — Freshman Chris Dixon, appearing at the Drake Relays for the first time, accurately summed up one of track and field’s biggest events after he finished the triple jump.
“Someone telling you how big it is doesn’t prepare you, you definitely have to see it for yourself,” Dixon said. “It’s nerve wracking, there’s more pressure with so many people watching you.”
With 18,000 people in the stands and 9,185 athletes representing 791 teams, Minnesota faced some of the world’s toughest competition in over 15 events.
The Gophers brought 29 athletes and plans of repeating last year’s two Drake titles.
Much of that hope rested on the shoulders of seniors Eric Pierce and Nate Clay, junior Jason Owen and sophomore Andrew McKessock as they looked to capture the 4×1,600-meter title from Stanford’s record-setting team.
Northern Iowa had a different idea — its team beat both the Cardinals and the Gophers. Minnesota took fourth place in the event, 10 seconds behind the first-place time.
“I was definitely the weak link, but Clay did well to close the deficit,” Owen said. “We just need to put it behind us so we can go on with the rest of the weekend.”
The rest of the weekend wasn’t so kind to the distance runners. They took eighth in the 4×800, 15th in the distance medley relay and sophomore Joe Corr placed seventh in the 5,000.
“With this many events there’s always some surprises and some disappointments,” coach Phil Lundin said. “I don’t like to dwell on the disappointments.”
Lundin had plenty of positive results in the sprints. Junior Tom Gerding had multiple successes to lead the Gophers. He placed second in the men’s special 400 and anchored the 4×100 relay team of Matt Taylor, Steve Burkholder and Adam Freed, which also took second place.
The field events also shared in the strong efforts. Junior Mark Fahey took sixth out of 20 competitors in the discus and set a new personal record throw of 182 feet, 10 inches.
“Fahey placed sixth in the discus but had a great personal best,” Lundin said. “Place doesn’t always matter with results like that.”
Though junior Marc Johannsen didn’t defend his 1999 Drake title in the high jump, he placed third with a jump of 6’11”, 2 1/2″ off of last year’s mark.
Although Minnesota placed in the top three of four events but captured no titles, very few of the Gophers were upset with the results.
“Drake can be intimidating, but it also makes you want to prove you can compete with these people,” Dixon said. “Just wait until Big Tens, we’ll surprise everyone.”

Monica Wright covers track and field and welcomes comments at [email protected]