NCAA qualifying throws lead Gophers

by David McCoy

Hammer throws led the way for Minnesota’s men’s and women’s track and field teams this weekend.

In his first hammer throw of the season, Adam Schnaible won the Tiger Classic in Baton Rouge, La., on Saturday with a toss of 194 feet, 1 inch and qualified for the NCAA regionals.

And for the women, Nina Cotolupenco threw a new personal best of 188 feet, 4 inches – the third-best mark in school history – to take third in the Stanford Invitational and qualify for the NCAA regionals as well.

Cotolupenco only needed one preliminary throw to take third after she fouled on her other five throws.

“I’m very pleased with her progress because she was having kind of a tough time last year with technique,” coach Gary Wilson said. “It’s hard when you have kind of an off year the year before, and all the sudden you’re coming into the season going, ‘Well, can I do this?’ And she’s really responded to the challenge.”

Schnaible was also second in the shot put with a throw of 53 feet, 11 inches on Saturday.

Coach Phil Lundin said the point of sending Schnaible and fellow thrower Karl Erickson to the warmer weather of Baton Rouge, La., was to get them better throwing conditions in the young outdoor season.

And just judging by his first hammer throw in his first chance to do it outdoors, Schnaible looked pretty good, Lundin said.

“You’ve got to go where you can throw,” Lundin said. “You don’t get to see things fly too far when you’re constantly throwing into nets indoors. It just goes to show what a great athlete he is.”

Erickson was also solid as usual, improving his NCAA regional qualifying mark in the discus, winning with a season-best throw of 188 feet, 11 inches and placing first in the shot put with a toss of 58 feet, 3 1/4 inches.

Five other members of the men’s team placed in the top five at the Tiger Classic.

Freshmen Luke Walker and Seijen Takamura finished third (15 minutes, 8.37 seconds) and fourth (15:22.12), respectively, in the 5,000-meter run, while Mike Linnemann and Todd Johnson both placed third in the 400-meter hurdles (56.03), and 1,500-meter run (3:59.44), respectively. Junior Derek Gearman added a fourth-place finish in the long jump with a mark of 23 feet, 9 inches.

Lundin said he was very pleased with the way the young athletes performed.

“Even if the times are less than impressive, over time, you see improvement in those particular areas,” Lundin said. “You always look for great results, but it’s best for the end of the season if you incrementally improve in each of the events.”

The women qualified a total of six for the end of the season at the invitational.

Also posting NCAA regional qualifying times with Cotolupenco were Heather Dorinden, Liz Alabi, Ruby Radocaj, Ladia Albertson-Junkans and Lauren Williams.

Dorniden placed eighth in the 1,500 meters with the fifth-fastest time in school history, finishing in 4:23.22.

Alabi and Radocaj both posted season bests in the shot put and javelin, respectively, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively. In the 5,000 meters Albertson-Junkans finished 14th (16:41.84) while Williams was 18th (16:47.92).

Wilson said several others were close to posting qualifying times as well, making for a solid team performance over the weekend.

“It would not have surprised me if we had nine or 10 (qualify),” Wilson said. “But I think they’ll get it done next week. This week’s trip and the next week’s trip at Georgia are the two meets where we’re really trying to get the qualifying marks out of the way.”