Gophers embrace rare meet at home

Minnesota will compete in the Jack Johnson Classic over the weekend.

Grant Donald

There’s no place like home. And for both the men and women’s track teams, the saying couldn’t be more applicable.

While most Minnesota teams play in front of their home crowds plenty of times over the course of the season, track and field athletes only have three opportunities all year to showcase their skills on their own track.

“This weekend is a special weekend for our team because it is the Jack Johnson invitational, our biggest meet that we have,” women’s head coach Matt Bingle said. “A lot of teams from outside the area come in — ones that we have never competed against before.”

Bingle said the meet will feature a live DJ, an alumni event and awards to give the event a unique atmosphere.

But running to the beat of a DJ is not the only thing Minnesota’s athletes will find unique about the meet, as they are normally accustomed to the grind of traveling to other schools to compete.

“It’s nice because we get to take reps in our own fieldhouse the day before the meet instead of traveling,” redshirt junior thrower Lyndsey Thorpe said. “Sleeping in your own bed the night before also helps.”

But once the sun rises on game day, runners like redshirt junior Kate Bucknam say they’re going to treat it just like another day competing for her school.

“Our pregame routine is pretty similar, whether we are traveling or at home,” Bucknam said. “Really, the only difference is we prepare and compete with the entire team.”

Every member of the track team will have an opportunity to compete this weekend — even athletes who are redshirting can participate unattached.

Still, not everyone will take advantage of the opportunity to compete at home. Many athletes will sit out this weekend because of their training schedules.

“We are not competing a full squad. Some kids are a little banged up, and some are taking the weekend off,” Bingle said. “But it is always good to compete at home in front of friends and family. It’s a big circus in there, which is the way I want it; controlled chaos.”

This weekend will be one of the few times most Minnesota athletes will compete in front of their family and friends all year, adding an incentive to perform to the best of their abilities.

“There is always a little more pressure at home,” Thorpe said. “Everyone wants to throw further, jump further, run faster because we want to protect our house, but it is still loose, and we definitely still have a lot of fun.”