International recruits help Gophers

Tim Klobuchar

Gary Wilson, Gophers women’s track and field coach, began his international recruiting two years ago with some simple e-mail correspondence. He made a handful of contacts through that medium, and conducted some mass international mailings before he made his first recruiting trip overseas in the summer of 1995.
Wilson made two more trips, to Scandinavia and Holland, this summer. All trips abroad are at his expense, but his recent foray into the overseas track and field world has yielded immediate results, making the cost worth it to Wilson.
The Gophers have four freshmen athletes on this year’s team from outside the United States and Canada, three who have set school freshman records. Throw in instant-impact transfers Chanteau White and Anna Gullingsrud, and Minnesota’s prospects for improving on its 10th-place finish of a year ago in the Big Ten indoor championships are considerably brightened. The Gophers get their chance to show how far they’ve come this weekend in Champaign, Ill.
“This is the best overall indoor team I’ve had in my 12 years here,” Wilson said. “Chanteau has helped the team immensely; the international kids have helped immensely, and the veterans are another year older.”
White, from Central State, and Gullingsrud, from Purdue, have added collegiate experience as well as talent. The international athletes have only talent, but the early indications are that might be enough.
Christine Gulbrandsen (Kristianland, Norway) already has the school record in the triple jump. Daphne Panhuysen (Maasbricht, Netherlands) has provisionally qualified for NCAAs in the 3,000-meter run, and Natalie Smith (St. Thomas, Barbados) has the Gophers freshman record in the long jump.
Wilson, who estimated that 30 percent of Division I track and field rosters are filled with foreign athletes, followed the lead of Gophers men’s coach Phil Lundin, who started recruiting abroad a few years before Wilson. Lundin’s recruits have done well, including Martin Eriksson, who was an indoor All-American in the pole vault in 1994.
“Phil has been a huge help to me,” Wilson said. “He’s had a lot of international kids, and we share information.”
The main reason Wilson changed his recruiting philosophy was simply because, in order to win, he had to. The only chance for a Big Ten championship was outside the borders. He said he now has between 40 and 50 international contacts, meaning he’s laid the foundation for a possible pipeline across the Atlantic.
“When I took this job, my first priority was Minnesota kids,” Wilson said. “That hasn’t changed, but I don’t want to struggle. I want us to win the Big Ten and be in the top five in the country. Loyalty does not help you win Big Ten championships.”