Individuals make final preparations before heading to NCAAs in Sacramento

Nick Gerhardt

Minnesota will send 10 athletes out to west Sacramento, Calif., today to compete at Sacramento State’s Hornet Stadium in the 2007 NCAA Outdoor Championships.

A combination of four athletes from the men’s team and six from the women’s will don the maroon and gold in the Golden State with hopes of NCAA prominence.

Men’s track

Four seniors are set for a final farewell. Aaron Buzard, Derek Gearman, Adam Schnaible and Antonio Vega will all make the trip for the Gophers.

“It’s the big show out there,” coach Phil Lundin said.

Buzard and Gearman make return appearances to the meet while Schnaible and Vega compete for their first time in the championships.

Buzard finished second in the 400-meter event at the Indoor Championships and hopes to win the event at the outdoor competition after receiving an at-large bid.

Gearman will participate in the three jumping events after earning an automatic berth in the triple jump and receiving at-large bids in the long jump and high jump.

Schnaible will make his first appearance in the NCAA Championship meet in the shot put and hammer throw. He earned his nod by placing third in the shot put at the Midwest Regional meet and received an at-large bid for the hammer throw.

Vega joins Schnaible as the other rookie at the Outdoor meet and will compete in the 10,000-meter event. Vega, a veteran of NCAA Cross Country Championships, makes his first NCAA track championship appearance.

Preparation will prove tantamount because the meet covers three days and will leave plenty of downtime for athletes in between events.

Gearman said because it’s a three-day event, it’s important to stay focused every day and to be consistent.

His coach shared similar sentiments, along with maintaining intensity and rest.

“There’s a lot of sitting around and you can’t put your race face on too early,” Lundin said “The training is brief but intense, so rest becomes the most important thing.”

Women’s track

The women’s team is sending six athletes to the Outdoor Championships.

Five of the six Gophers make a return trip to the NCAA meet, and that previous experience is something senior Liz Alabi said is an advantage in such a meet.

Freshman Alicia Rue is the only first-time participant for Minnesota.

“They probably don’t feel a lot of pressure because they’ve been there before,” coach Matt Bingle said. “They just need to focus on doing what they are capable of and try for personal best, because you can’t worry about what other people are going to do.”

Sophomore Heather Dorniden will compete in the 800-meter event. She won the 2006 indoor championship and faces strong competition in her way of earning an outdoor championship with the 2006 outdoor champion and the 2007 indoor champion matched up against her.

Senior All-American Emily Brown is set to race in the 3,000-meter steeplechase event and looks to improve on her strong performances in the last two meets.

Fellow senior Liz Alabi sets her sights on reaching the 200-foot mark in the hammer throw after nearly eclipsing the mark at the Big Ten meet with a throw of 199 feet, eight inches. She will also compete in the shot put.

Junior Liz Podominick returns to the NCAA Championships for a third time as she will participate in the shot put and discus events.

Another junior, Ruby Radocaj, will set her sights on the javelin throw after earning an automatic bid in the Midwest Regional meet.

Rue registered an at-large bid to compete in the pole vault event after compiling a strong year for the Gophers.