Ruby Radocaj set to perform at ‘other’ relays

by David McCoy

Ruby Radocaj was one of those kids who grew up to compete in those “other” relays.

Growing up in Williamsport, Pa., the javelin thrower for Minnesota’s women’s track and field team was raised with the East Coast mentality that the Penn Relays were where it’s at.

“Once you’re an East Coast kid, you just historically go to the Penn Relays and you don’t hardly know what the Drake Relays are,” coach Gary Wilson said. “It’s a little more East Coast, and Drake’s a lot more Midwest.”

Radocaj even won the javelin competition at the prestigious Philadelphia meet as a high-schooler.

But this weekend, Radocaj will compete with the rest of her Gophers teammates in the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa.

What would the kids back home say?

“I didn’t really know what Drake Relays were when I came here,” Radocaj said. “I had no idea. So I’m sure they don’t know either.”

Radocaj came to the Gophers a well-decorated high school athlete in the javelin. She was a three-time All-American, two-time state champion and, of course, a Penn Relays champion.

As a freshman last year she won her first four-college competitions and even took second at Big Tens.

The Drake Relays was a stop in the road where Radocaj took a sixth-place finish, but her year ended on a sour note, placing 20th at regionals when Wilson said she should have qualified for NCAAs.

“That’s just managing the pressure of competing at this level,” Wilson said. “And that’s much, much, much better this year. But that’s typical.”

The tough part was getting her to come.

Wilson said Radocaj was strongly considering a commitment to Penn State, with the University Park campus just 66 miles from Williamsport.

But Wilson, who hails from upstate New York, said relating to his own westward migration helped lure recruits like Radocaj to Minnesota.

“I just say I’ve been out here 30 years, and I’ve survived,” Wilson said. “Not well, but I’ve survived. So we talk about that. Hell, you’re moving 1,000 miles away.”

Radocaj said she wasn’t nervous about moving out to Minnesota.

“I was ready to go away from home and start a new life,” Radocaj said. “So I was OK with it.”

This weekend she’ll be back close to home – familiar memories, familiar environment, familiar atmosphere and familiar demeanor.

Throwing coach Lynne Anderson hopes for familiar results.

“She’s very consistent,” Anderson said. “In the competition they get six throws and she may have three or four that are the same. So with that in mind, we’re just hoping she’ll break through and move to another level after this meet.”

Even if it is that “other” meet.

First-day results

In the first event of the weekend for the women’s team, senior Harper McConnell ran the 10,000 meters Thursday in a time of 36 minutes, 54.56 seconds, taking seventh.

Whom the women will send

Wilson said he was a bit disappointed more jumpers didn’t qualify for the Drake Relays, but he can’t complain about his contingent of throwers.

Along with Radocaj, Minnesota is sending Liz Alabi in the hammer throw and shot put, Liz Podominick in the discus and shot put, Amanda Solberg in the javelin, Jess Stephan in the discus, Nina Cotolupenco in the hammer, Dawn Solberg in the 100-meter hurdles and Caitlin Roemhildt in the high jump.

Minnesota also will compete in the distance medley, 4-by-800, 4-by-1,600 and 4-by-100 meter relays.

Whom the men will send

The Gophers men certainly are taking the “relays” part of the Drake Relays seriously.

Minnesota will compete in the 4-by-400, 4-by-100, distance medley, 1,600 sprint medley, 4-by-800, 4-by-200 and 4-by-1,600 meter relays.

Kevin Netzer, John Albert and Parker Robinson will all compete in the high jump, along with Aaron Buzard in the 400-meter special, Hans Storvick in the 800-meter run and Derek Gearman in the long jump and triple jump.

Rounding out Minnesota’s men will be Karl Erickson in the shot put and discus and Adam Schnaible in the hammer throw and shot put.

NFL Draft

Minnesota’s football team lost two of the best offensive linemen in the country to eligibility after last season in center Greg Eslinger and guard Mark Setterstrom.

That was an expected blow to the Gophers offense.

What most didn’t expect is that running back Laurence Maroney joined them by declaring himself eligible for the NFL draft after his junior season.

Many mock drafts expect Maroney’s name to be called in the first round, which begins at noon Sunday.

Similarly, it is expected that Eslinger will go late on the first day of the draft, or sometime Sunday. Setterstrom is projected to go on the second day.

– Matt Perkins contributed to this report.