Riter shows he’ll go the distance

After battling injuries for two years, Trent Riter has shown skill at middle distances.

Lou Raguse

Last weekend at the Drake Relays, the emphasis for Minnesota’s men’s track and field distance runners was on the relay races, in which they responded by winning the 4×800 and distance medley relays.

This weekend, distance coach Steve Plasencia said the emphasis is on the individual as many Gophers will compete in the Cardinal Invitational at Stanford.

After the Drake Relays, Gophers’ coaches were particularly impressed with sophomore Trent Riter who, after two years of battling injuries, emerged as a top middle distance runner.

Riter ran anchor for the 4×800 and opened up the distance medley teams at Drake, and this weekend he will run an open 800-meter run at Stanford.

“He’s just getting a chance to show his talent now,” Plasencia said. “We were able to do nothing last year in training compared to this year.”

Riter redshirted the outdoor track season in 2002 because of a shin stress fracture. Last season, he competed but was hampered by a similar injury – which limited him to training in the swimming pool much of the season.

“I even thought about getting surgery last summer,” Riter said. “I decided not to, and that might be the best decision I’ve made.”

Riter opted to rehab the injury rather than undergo surgery, and he spent the 2003 cross country season training. Since then, he and teammate Ryan Ford have trained together, with their differing styles complementing each other.

Ford has a highly successful cross country background, yet during the track and field season he runs 800s, too.

“He’s a lot more stronger runner for longer intervals,” Riter said. “But I’m a lot more of the speed stuff, so we really push each other.”

Riter and Ford competed against each other in high school, with Ford winning the 2000 state title in the 800 and Riter winning in 2001. Now, they root each other.

“The sky’s the limit for him,” Ford said of Riter. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes top five in the nation this year in the 800 outdoors.”

Other Gophers

Many of Minnesota’s sprinters, jumpers and throwers will compete in the Iowa Twilight Open in Cedar Falls, Iowa, this weekend.

Of the other distance runners competing at Stanford, Plasencia said he is excited to see Andrew Carlson and Will McComb run the 5,000-meter open run.

“They have both run some very good times this year,” Plasencia said. “It’s such a good meet that it gives a chance for every guy we take out there to come home with a personal lifetime best time in their pocket.”

Steele rehabbing

Senior sprinter Adam Steele, who pulled out of the 400-meter sprint at the Drake Relays with a hamstring cramp, is practicing lightly this week and said he will not compete at the Iowa Twilight Open this weekend, but should be ready for the Big Ten meet May 14-16.

Steele called the injury a strain, and said it stemmed from some recent minor tendonitis in the muscle, which was brought on by the cold and rain at the Drake meet.

“It’s calmed down in the last 48 hours,” Steele said. “I’d like to get a 400 in at the ‘last chance’ meet in two weeks to get ready for the Big Ten, but this weekend isn’t that pressing.”

In the event Steele missed, teammates Mitch Potter and Robb Merritt finished second and third with times of 46.89 and 47.16, respectively.