Big Ten indoors on tap

This weekend marks the end of the indoor track and field season.

by Grant Donald

When redshirt junior Liz Berkholtz crossed the finish line of last year’s Big Ten indoor championships after running 5,000 meters, she found herself in fifth place and behind two senior teammates.

With her teammates set to graduate months later, she figured a top-three finish at this year’s championships was a realistic possibility.

That was until she had to sit out a couple of long winter months with a lingering cross country injury.

“I didn’t even think about running at an indoor meet until a couple weeks ago,” Berkholtz said. “I felt like I didn’t have anything to lose, so I gave it a try and ended up running a decent time at Iowa State. I guess I’m in better shape than I thought I was.”

Even though Berkholtz’s path is unique because of her injury, she will join the rest of the Gophers this weekend at the indoor championships in Geneva, Ohio.

The athletes will not only be racing for themselves, however, as they also earn points for the overall Big Ten championship.

“It is team first, and that is what our team has been about all year,” women’s head coach Matt Bingle said. “This indoor season we have just been trying to have no expectations in terms of times, but just doing your job and beating the people you’re against. When you go searching for numbers, things can go wrong.”

Redshirt junior Jess Herauf is one of the athletes who earned points for the Gophers at last year’s championships, finishing second in the pentathlon.

This year, she has already posted a new program record in the event and feels prepared to bring home the title this year.

“I’ve worked a lot on speed this year. It’s no secret that [speed] is one of my downfalls,” Herauf said. “I’m on a good path to becoming a sprinter, so we will see how it goes this weekend.”

Redshirt senior Devin Stanford is another athlete to watch this weekend, as she looks to improve on last year’s fourth-place finish in the weight throw.

On the men’s side, senior Justin Barber is preparing for his last shot at a Big Ten title after finishing eighth in the weight throw last year.

“This meet is always the most intense of the year,” Barber said. “We have a good group of guys that are peaking at the right time and are prepared to shine through and score some points for the team.”

Even though this isn’t Barber’s first trip to the Big Ten championships, it is for many of Minnesota’s best athletes.

Redshirt freshmen sprinters Brad Neumann and Berkley Edwards and freshman pole vaulter Glen Harold all put together performances this year that have impressed head coach Steve Plasencia. They’ll hope to continue the trend this weekend.

“When you coach as long as I have, [the indoor championships] have become somewhat of a ritual, but for [the freshmen] they are probably a little more wide-eyed going into the competition,” Plasencia said. “Those guys have become seasoned in a hurry, so I don’t think they will struggle with [the intensity of the meet] at all.”