Minnesota men defend indoor title

The Gophers beat the second-place Buckeyes by a 48-point margin.

by Derek Wetmore

In decisive fashion, the Minnesota menâÄôs track and field team successfully defended its Big Ten indoor championship. The Gophers were without six-time All-American Hassan Mead, who is struggling with an AchillesâÄô tendon injury. With the indoor season as short as it is, the team said it decided it would be better to have Mead not waste a year of eligibility while he battles an injury. Plenty of other Gophers stepped up in MeadâÄôs absence, with a total of five Minnesota athletes being crowned Big Ten champions in six different events . Gophers senior Aaron Studt defended his Big Ten crown when he won the shot put competition with a personal-best final throw. âÄúItâÄôs pretty surreal. IâÄôm just really excited that I was able to pull it off with my last throw,âÄù Studt said in a statement Saturday. âÄúIâÄôm more concerned about the team score as opposed to me winning but IâÄôm just very excited. It feels good to repeat as champion.âÄù On the second day of competition, Studt won the weight throw as well, again on his final throw. Head coach Steve Plasencia said he was very impressed with the way Studt performed. âÄúHeâÄôs got my vote as the athlete of the meet,âÄù Plasencia said. MinnesotaâÄôs Ben Blankenship won the mile with a time of 4 minutes, 5.64 seconds, narrowly edging his closest opponent by 0.27 seconds. Plasencia said that the victory was the turning point of the meet. The Gophers had a lead in points after the first day of competition, and BlankenshipâÄôs victory padded the lead. âÄúIt feels great,âÄù Blankenship said in a statement. âÄúBeing at home for this was awesome. There was just so much energy going on in here, which really helped.âÄù Freshman Harun Abda won the 600-meter run with a time of 1:17.76. Abda also ran the 800 leg for MinnesotaâÄôs distance medley relay team and competed in the 4-by-400 meter relay. âÄúHarun is a very, very talented kid, and heâÄôs just been a great kid to work with,âÄù Plasencia said. Gophers junior Ben Peterson won the pole vault competition by clearing a height of 17 feet, 6 1/2 inches. His mark is a personal and Minnesota season high. The Gophers swept the top three spots in the heptathlon, led by senior R.J. McGinnis . âÄúItâÄôs a great feeling to have the person that is pushing you the most to be wearing the same jersey. ItâÄôs always fun to compete with your teammates,âÄù McGinnis said in a statement. McGinnis racked up 5,708 points on the event, which was the second highest total of anyone in the Big Ten this season. Freshman Jack Szmanda and junior Brock Spandl finished second and third, respectively. The NCAA indoor championship this year is scheduled to take place March 12 and 13 in Fayetteville, Ark. Final word on who will be named to the field will be announced later this week. Note: The Minnesota women’s track and field team finished fourth this weekend at the Big Ten Indoor Championships. The Gophers had won the past three conference titles, but saw their streak ended as host Penn State claimed the crown.