Women’s track gets shot at steeplechase event this season

Brian Hall

Minnesota senior Victoria Moses has run in the NCAA indoor and outdoor track and field championships.

She earned top ten finishes in the 10,000 and 5,000-meter runs. During the 2002 indoor season, she was part of the distance medley relay team that finished third in the conference posting the third best Gophers mark ever.

In cross country she is one of three Minnesota athletes to participate in four national championships.

Despite her accomplishments she has rarely competed in her favorite event, the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

It wasn’t because she was caught watching as a star upperclassmen racked up first-place finishes. Injuries weren’t the problem either.

The reason she rarely competed in the event was because the NCAA had not designated the steeplechase as an official event.

“I have run in it for three years but the first couple of years I was only able to compete in one (steeplechase) per year,” Moses said.

Last year, there was a breakthrough for Moses, as the NCAA began to recognize the event which combines a 3,000-meter run with one water jump and three 30-inch high wood barriers per lap.

The NCAA first began a steeplechase championship for men’s track and field in 1948.

Moses ran in the event four times last year, putting up the second best time ever by a Gopher at 10:51.97, less than seven seconds behind now-departed senior Elaine Eggleston.

Now, Moses is a senior and the most experienced runner in the event for Minnesota. The 2002 Big Ten Outdoor Championships marks the first time women will run the steeplechase as a scored event.

“It’s a big step, and consistent with making men and women’s track and field even,” Moses said. “It’s about time.”

While preparing to compete in May’s conference championships, Moses will also act as tutor to junior Anita Menden and freshmen Tracy Fleischhacker and Zoe Nagell. Menden, Fleischhacker and Nagell will be running the steeplechase for the first time in their careers.

“I had never even seen it before,” Fleischhacker said. “(Moses) told me not to be afraid to fall or get wet. It’s going to happen.”

Fleischhacker wanted to compete in the event. She approached coach Gary Wilson in the fall and requested to run during the outdoor season.

“I knew it would take a lot of work and a lot of practice though,” Fleischhacker said. “In high school, I wanted to be a hurdler but my coach told me I would be better at distance. Now I get to do this. It’s almost a combination of distance and hurdles.”

Fleischhacker’s attraction to the event is not surprising to Wilson.

“Some people love the event,” Wilson said. “Some people love the challenge. It is hard on your body. It’s a very demanding run.”

The demand is what drew Moses to the event and the main reason it has become her favorite.

“There is more to it than just a flat run,” Moses said. “In a flat run you just get in a mode and run. With the steeple you constantly have to think and focus. If you don’t you’re going to get wet.

“I like having that focus.”

Moses receives the opportunity to continue her love affair on Saturday as Minnesota heads to Durham, N.C., to compete in the Duke Invitational. Meanwhile Fleischhacker, Nagell and Menden will be getting their first shot at the event.

Brian Hall covers track and field and
welcomes comments at [email protected]