Brooks leads Gophers to fourth at Big Tens

Minnesota earned two titles on the men’s side at the conference meet.

by Jack Satzinger

The Gophers men’s and women’s track and field teams competed at the Big Ten Indoor Track and Field Championships in Geneva, Ohio, over the weekend, but they didn’t quite finish where they wanted to.

Minnesota’s men’s team finished sixth at the meet, while the women took home fourth place.

Gophers women’s head coach Matt Bingle said before the meet that the team hoped to finish in the top three. It came up just short, but Bingle said he was satisfied with the result.

“You always want to be in the top three, but I knew it was going to be hard to do this weekend,” Bingle said. “We did … what I thought we could coming in, and that was great.”

Minnesota middle distance runner Alena Brooks took home the women’s team’s only individual title at the meet. She also qualified for the NCAA meet in Albuquerque, N.M., on March 14-15.

“I am so excited,” the senior said. “It’s my first national. It’s my last year. And words can’t explain the exhilarating feeling I’m feeling right now.”

Brooks won the 600-meter run in 1:26.73 and then ran in the distance medley and the 4×400-meter relay.

So many events at a high-level meet would exhaust most athletes, but Brooks was ready for the challenge. If anything, the Trinidad native said the busy schedule wore more on her psyche.

“In the past, I’d become overwhelmed and really think about it,” Brooks said. “I would put unneeded pressure on myself.

“That’s something I’ve really improved on this year: just relaxing.”

Brooks is the only Gophers athlete on the women’s team that has locked up a spot at the NCAA meet, but Bingle said he’s “about 90 percent sure” that junior Jess Herauf will be going as well.

Herauf finished second in the pentathlon with 4,054 points.

“She did a good job of kind of handling the pressure,” Bingle said. “She … really pulled through for us.”

The Gophers’ most successful event was the 5,000-meter run. Junior Molly Kayfes, senior Laura Docherty and sophomore Liz Berkholtz all finished in the top five.

“That was our best event of the weekend,” Bingle said. “It was just an awesome performance by those guys.”

Simons, Siegmeier pace men

Minnesota seniors John Simons and Zach Siegmeier both came home with individual titles in the 1-mile run and in the pole vault, respectively, but the Gophers fell below their expectations.

“As a team, it was definitely a great effort by all of the guys, sophomore Goaner Deng said, “but with the past history we’ve had at Minnesota … that wasn’t what we were looking for.”

Deng, who placed third in the 800-meter run, said the team focused on positives that came from the meet — particularly the youth on the roster.

“If you think about all the young guys that we have right now developing, we can be in the hunt for the [Big Ten] title next year,” Deng said.

Still, before the focus shifts toward next season, Minnesota will send Siegmeier, Simons and senior Jon Lehman to the indoor championships in two weeks.