Minnesota looking to Big Ten meet

The men’s and women’s teams will compete at the Big Ten Championships from May 12 to 14.

by David McCoy

The Big Ten Outdoor Track and Field Championships now are in full view for Minnesota’s men’s and women’s track and field teams.

With two nondescript training events this weekend – the Meet of the Unsaintly at Hamline University in St. Paul and the Minnesota Throws at the Bierman Track and Field Complex – both Gophers teams can use last weekend’s Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, as a starting block to the final lap of their seasons.

While several of the men turned in solid performances at Drake, most said they still left something to be desired.

Senior high jumper Kevin Netzer cleared 7 feet for the second week in a row but still wasn’t quite satisfied with his performance.

“I’m happy with it, but I’ve gone the same height the last couple weekends in a row,” Netzer said. “It would be nice to get that next height and get that out of the way. Consistent, but one big jump would be nice – make your confidence higher so you know you can at least do it.”

As the men look ahead to Big Tens, coach Phil Lundin said the Gophers should be in the mix, but Wisconsin will be the team everyone’s gunning for.

The Badgers will be going for their third-straight outdoor title and their ninth in the past 12 years.

“They have such great depth in the distances and have one of the best sprinters in the U.S.,” Lundin said. “And they’ve got strong decathletes, and their jumpers are relatively stable, and they fill in here and there with guys that are competitive at the Big Ten level.

“They don’t have any throws, but they’ve got so much strength in the distances, and they do such a good job developing people that it’s going to be hard to dethrone them.”

That might be the area the Gophers can make up some ground.

With super-thrower Karl Erickson, a force in the shot put and discus (he took first in the shot and third in the discus at Drake), if the Gophers can hold strong in the running and jumping events, Minnesota at least should be able to contend.

“We still have a chance if we do everything we’re supposed to do,” Lundin said. “If they stumble a little bit, we can jump on that.”

Women can contend

Minnesota’s women’s track and field team turned in a trio of solid performances in the distance medley relay, 4-by-800-meter relay and 4-by-1,600 relay.

But while the distance events are solid, the Gophers will be looking for more from their throws, jumps and sprints at Big Tens.

Coach Gary Wilson was disappointed that more jumpers didn’t qualify for Drake, while the 4-by-100-meter team failed to qualify for the finals at Drake and even Liz Podominick, last year’s Big Ten Outdoor Freshman of the Year, was disappointed in her performance in the finals in the shot put and discus.

But still, with personal bests set at Drake by Gophers such as javelin thrower Ruby Radocaj, and the leadership of the young relay teams that set a new record and finished just behind three-peat distance medley relay-winning Michigan, Minnesota has possibly its best shot at a title in years.

“We’re putting together three really solid relays,” sophomore Ladia Albertson-Junkans said. “So hopefully we’ll have three really solid performances.”