Brandstatter and Howe head off to NCAA indoor meet as exemplary fifth-year seniors

Matt Perkins

Halfway through their senior seasons, two Minnesota men’s track and field stars are on pace to end their careers with exemplary finishes.

High jumper Bryant Howe and heptathlete Travis Brandstatter will seek All-America status at this year’s NCAA Indoor Championships, taking place today and Saturday in Fayetteville, Ark.

Coach Phil Lundin said he couldn’t ask for anything more out of his program – except more athletes like Brandstatter and Howe.

“They are two fifth-year guys who worked very hard and became Big Ten champions,” Lundin said. “They basically represent what’s allowed us to be so successful. I only wish we had more; that’s our only problem.”

The Gophers provisionally qualified six individuals for NCAA consideration, but Howe and Brandstatter were the only ones to make the final cut. They will both compete in their first NCAA indoor meets.

They both said their hard work got them there, but they want more than to just be there.

“It would be nice to get a payoff after such a long process of getting here,” Howe said.

Howe said he doesn’t measure his performance by feet and inches, but he would like to jump a personal best 7-3 and will be happy with 12th place.

Howe set a personal best of 7-2 1/4 on his way to a Big Ten title.

Also winning a Big Ten title in the heptathlon, Brandstatter is looking to improve on a fourth-place finish in the decathlon at last year’s NCAA outdoor meet. Brandstatter’s finish earned him All-America status, and he scored a school-record 7,736 points.

Going into this weekend’s competition, he is again an All-America favorite, projected to finish fourth again.

But Brandstatter said he doesn’t spend too much time worrying about projections.

“The field at NCAAs is so much better (than Big Tens),” Brandstatter said. “Projections don’t mean anything. I just need to finish high in hurdles and vault, and I think I’ll do pretty well.”

Both Howe and Brandstatter said they don’t consider themselves vocal leaders, but their efforts and training speak for themselves.

Lundin said he emphasized the importance of being able to show off two fifth-year seniors completing outstanding careers during the next recruiting process.

“We can say to our freshman, ‘Look, these guys came in just like you guys – raw, technically full of flaws,’ ” Lundin said. “But we can show them if they stick with it, they can see the same results.”