Three athletes stand out for Gophers women’s track team

by Allison Younge

Three Gophers women’s track and field athletes — Dani Parkos, Nicole Chimko and Apasha Blocker — clinched individual titles at the Tom Potts Invitational in Columbia, Mo., on Saturday. Minnesota finished second in the eight-team tournament with 121 points, behind Missouri, which scored 153 points.
The Gophers were led by a pair of throwers, Parkos and Chimko, who combined forces to dominate the throw events for Minnesota. Parkos, a senior, won the shot put title with a toss of 44 feet, 6 inches. She also placed second in the discus. Chimko, a freshman, claimed the javelin title, throwing 148-7, and took fourth in the discus. The senior-freshman combination has proven extremely effective in this year’s lineup.
Coming off a redshirt year last season, Parkos has shown vast improvement in both the shot put and discus. She has provisionally qualified for the NCAA championships in both events.
Three weeks ago at the Raleigh Relays, Chimko provisionally qualified for the NCAAs and earned a spot on the Gophers top-10 list of javelin throwers. She is currently fifth overall with a personal best throw of 156-11.
“Nicole had some technical trouble at the Texas Relays last weekend,” Wilson said. “It was nice to see her rebound back strong.”
Clearing a height of 5 feet, 5 inches was good enough to win Blocker a title in the high jump this weekend. After finishing seventh overall at the Big Ten indoor championships this year, Blocker, a sophomore, has experienced continuous improvement.
As well as being a steady in the high jump, Blocker also competes in the 100-meter hurdles and shot put. This weekend, she finished fourth in the hurdles and eighth in the shot put.
An unexpected display of determination came from freshman Natalie Smith. The St. Thomas, Barbados native jumped 18 feet, 3 inches to take second in the long jump.
“I was especially proud of Natalie,” Wilson said. “She jumped an 18-3 to take second even though the weather was about 60 degrees colder than what she’s used to. Her performance epitomized the whole day for our team.”
Other athletes earning top finishes at the invitational were distance runners Anna Gullingsrud and Minna Haronoja, and hurdler Yvette White.
Gullingsrud (5,000) and Haronoja (1,500) finished second in their respective races, and White placed second in the 100 and 400 hurdles.
“The team competed pretty well, Wilson said. “I was really proud of the way they carried themselves all weekend long.”
Note: In dual meet team scores, the Gophers were downed by Missouri 79-65 but defeated third-place finisher Kansas by a 96-42 score.