When the Minnesota men’s and women’s track and field teams travel this weekend to the Stanford Invitational and Hamline Invite, their cumulative round trips for the season will total more than 15,000 miles.
And it’s only one month into the season.
Minnesota’s last home meet was the third week in February during the indoor season. The Gophers will not host another meet this season.
One reason Minnesota does not host outdoor meets is the weather.
Although this year has been unseasonably warm, most years Minnesota would have to pay teams to compete in an unpredictable climate.
“Traditionally, most good teams don’t want to come north early in the outdoor season because you could have sleet and snow, and that makes for a miserable track meet and probably not very good marks as well,” head men’s coach Steve Plasencia said. “This is the time of the year where our track programs traditionally use the majority of their travel budget.”
Many individual outdoor events also require different climate conditions.
“The sprinters want it to be 90 degrees and hot,” assistant women’s coach Sarah Hesser said. “For our distance kids, 95 is the devil.”
That’s why the Stanford Invitational in Palo Alto, Calif., has become a marquee destination for distance runners. The weather this weekend is expected to be partly cloudy with highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s, according to weatherchannel.com.
“It gives us a chance to really get into the distance mindset,” said Laura Docherty, the 3,000-meter champion at last weekend’s Arkansas Invitational.
Some members of both the men’s and women’s teams will compete relatively close to home in St. Paul at the Hamline Invite.
“It’s good, especially for our younger athletes. It’s less pressure,” head women’s coach Matt Bingle said. “We can go in there and really work on some things without having to worry about trying to make a final. … We can do some more technique-based stuff.”
Some of the men’s athletes who competed all the way through the March 10 indoor NCAA championships will kick off the outdoor portion of their season this weekend.
Maintaining a semblance of a team when athletes travel often is a challenge during the outdoor season, Bingle said.
“It’s a delicate balance because we have to make sure … we do stay as a tight group and as a family but yet getting what we need to get done individually as well,” Bingle said.