Men’s distance medley relay breaks school record at Drake Relays

The record had stood since 1977, when head coach Steve Plasencia helped set it.

by Megan Ryan

The men’s track and field distance medley relay defended its title and set a new school record at the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, this weekend.

Nick Hutton, Harun Abda, David Pachuta and Travis Burkstrand finished with a time of 9 minutes, 36.21 seconds.

In 1977, current head coach Steve Plasencia set the record with Andy Bunge, Ike Okolue and Gerald Metzler.

After more than 30 years in the record books, Plasencia said he wasn’t surprised to see his time edged.

“I think that record was ready to go,” he said.

Plasencia had already left to coach other Gophers runners at the Payton Jordan Invitational in Palo Alto, Calif., and did not see the distance medley relay race.

Assistant coach Paul Thornton was there and said it didn’t take long for the relay team to remind him whose record they broke.

“They joked around about the fact that another one of [Plasencia’s] school marks has come on down at the expense of the guys in which he was actually coaching,” Thornton said.

Pachuta, the lone senior on the team, said the team wasn’t concerned about breaking records. But he said he can’t resist the temptation of teasing his head coach at the next practice.

“I’m going to have to give him some crap about it on Monday,” Pachuta said Saturday. “It’s funny.”

The distance medley relay team also won another title a day earlier. The same runners competed in the 4×800-meter relay and defended the title claimed in 2011 with a time of 7:19.02.

Several other Minnesota athletes earned third-place honors at the meet. Andrew Larsen finished third in the 5,000 meter, as did the 4×1,600 relay team of Sean Olson, Matt Volz, Bob Nicolls and John Simons.

In the field, Jack Szmanda placed third in the pole vault, and Quentin Mege did the same in the hammer throw.

Many of the men’s team members did not compete at the Drake Relays and instead appeared at the Macalester Twilight on April 26 and the Drake Alternatives on April 28.

Even without a full team, Minnesota managed to capture the team title easily in St. Paul, Minn., with 181.5 points. St Thomas (104) and Minnesota-Duluth (85) followed well behind.

Minnesota won eight individual titles as well. On the track, Alex Migit claimed the 110 hurdles and the 400 hurdles. Frank Falzone also claimed the 400 dash.

The Gophers dominated the field and earned top-three and top-four sweeps in both the pole vault and the discus throw. Logan Markuson and Dominique Howard, respectively, led the sweeps.

Sam Kettenhofen also won the long jump, and Mark Jennings took first in the shot put. Micah Hegerle placed first in the hammer throw.

At the Drake Alternatives in St. Peter, Minn., Minnesota earned four titles. Three repeated their performance form the Macalester Twilight.

Falzone again won the 400. Kettenhofen also earned his second title of the week in the long jump. Markuson not only repeated his pole vault win, but he also set a new stadium and meet record of 5.01 meters. Jon Lehman also championed the hammer throw.

The men will compete again May 2 at the Golden Bear and St. Thomas Twilights, both in St. Paul. The team will then travel to Cedar Falls, Iowa, for the Mark Messersmith Invitational on May 4.


The women fell just short of retaining the title they had won the past three years at the Drake Relays. The 4×1,600 relay team came in second with a time of 19:17.71 to Iowa’s 19:16.73.

Katie Moraczewski, Molly Kayfes, Ashlie Decker, and Laura Docherty beat out Iowa State for the silver.

“Coming in, it was a little intimidating for those guys because that relay had had such history,” assistant coach Sarah Hesser said. “Any time you can be in the top three at the relays, you know you’re doing something good.”

Moraczewski was the only relay member who had competed at the Drake Relays collegiately before.

However, Decker is a Des Moines native and competed at the 103-year-old meet in high school.

“It was one of the most exciting races I’d seen in a long time,” Decker said. “I definitely felt like I was racing at home. … It felt like everything was on the line because you just really wanted to win.”

As for being beat by the home team, Decker said if she had to lose, she was glad it was to Iowa.

“It’s always more fun to win, but the Iowa team had a group of seniors,” Decker said. “As much as it was kind of sad to see us get second, it was exciting for them.”

At the first day of the Steve Scott Invitational in Irvine, Calif., Todea-Kay Willis continued her perfect record so far this season in the long jump.

Willis placed first with a jump of 6.03 meters to claim her third title in as many attempts.

Katie Murgic and Emily Betz earned third places in field events. Murgic claimed the last spot on the podium in the pole vault while Betz did the same in the javelin.

On the second day, Minnesota’s 4×100 relay claimed first place. Willis, Nyoka Giles, Chimerem Okoroji and Kylie Peterson ran it in 44.95 seconds.

Representatives from Minnesota finished seventh overall with 49 points at the Macalester Invitational on April 29. Eventual winner St. Benedict scored 184.5 points.

The Gophers’ Chelsea Pettit won the 3,000 meters with teammate Kayla Dahl close in second. Tina DeLakis and Shanna Campbell placed first and second in the shot put. DeLakis’ 15.52 meters set a new stadium and invitational record. Megan Petermann rounded out the top three finishes with a second place in the discus throw.

The women compete again May 2 at the St. Thomas Twilight in St. Paul.