Gophers sweep All-American honors

Minnesota had six representatives compete in three events at the meet.

Senior Sean Donnelly practices the hammer throw at an outdoor practice field on June 4.

Image by Kelsey Christensen, Daily File Photo

Senior Sean Donnelly practices the hammer throw at an outdoor practice field on June 4.

by Carissa Polo

The six Gophers who set out to compete at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore., last week all came home with All-American awards. 

 “I’m very proud,” said head coach Steve Plasencia about his team. “Every year what’s required at the national level keeps getting higher and higher. The bar is ever-increasing, so it never gets any easier.” 

Redshirt senior Sean Donnelly, a four-time NCAA Division III national champion, kicked off the competition for Minnesota on Wednesday in the hammer throw. 

Donnelly didn’t disappoint in his first NCAA Division I Championships performance. He finished fourth overall in the event with a 71.28 meter throw. The mark is the best in Minnesota NCAA Championship history and earned Donnelly First Team All-American honors. 

“For a first-time Division I athlete, it’s quite an accomplishment.” Donnelly said. “I’m very happy with it.” 

Donnelly’s performance adds to a successful streak by recent Minnesota throwers; the team has had an All-American thrower in each of the past six seasons, and the Gophers have received eight total honors in that span.

“Sean Donnelly’s performance … that was really outstanding,” Placensia said. “He’s just been doing a great job all year and continued to throw really well at that meet.”

Donnelly’s championship meet was his last as an NCAA athlete, but he isn’t done competing for the summer. He said he will also return to Eugene in July in an attempt to make the U.S. Olympic team for the first time in his track and field career. 

Redshirt junior Mitch Hechsel made his first NCAA Championships appearance at last week’s meet and competed in the 800-meter run. Hechsel placed 14th overall in the race with a time good enough to receive a spot as a Second Team All-American. 

“I was hoping to come away with a season PR, but I came up just short,” Hecshel said. “But this is one of the toughest 800 groups I’ve ever been with, so I’m happy with where I ended up.”

Minnesota’s last event at the meet was the 4×400 meter relay. The team of freshman Jack Wellenstein, redshirt sophomore Brad Neumann, redshirt junior Nate Roese and senior Goaner Deng finished 16th in the race and earned Second Team All-American honors. 

The high note to the end of the season makes the team already optimistic for what’s to come next year. 

“I hope we’re going to win an indoor Big Ten title,” Hecshel said. “It’s far away now, but it’s what we’re going to be training for all fall and winter.”