Six athletes go to meet in search of NCAA bids

Allison Younge

Six of the Gophers’ top guns travel west this weekend to join several of the nation’s leading men’s track and field contenders at the Mount Sac Relays in Walnut, Calif. The aim of Minnesota’s small group isn’t to bask in the sunny California rays, but to clinch personal best performances en route to NCAA qualifying standards.
“Mount Sac is the first of three or four premier meets in the outdoor season,” Gophers distance coach Steve Plasencia said. “We’ll look to qualify some more guys for NCAAs this weekend.”
The conditions appear favorable for Plasencia’s words to hold true. Gophers freshman high-jumper Staffan Strand has already automatically qualified for the NCAA championships after a notable performance at the Texas Relays. The five other Gophers attending the meet are provisional qualifiers.
Benjamin Jensen (decathlon), Rick Obleman (3,000-meter Steeplechase), Tye Harvey (pole vault), Jason Schlueter (discus) and Chad Yenchesky (shot put) hope to earn automatic qualifying marks this weekend.
Jensen will compete in his first decathlon in the outdoor season. He set two Minnesota school records and a Big Ten record in the decathlon last season.
Yenchesky is currently a three-time provisional qualifier, Schlueter has provisionally qualified twice and Harvey and Obleman follow with one provisional mark.
Sixteen of the remaining track and field athletes will compete Saturday at the Hawkeye Invitational in Iowa City, Iowa. However, several Gophers will stay at home because of injuries or the taxing travel schedule.
“A few guys that competed at the Sea Rays last weekend will stay home because of the travel schedule and a few are still injured,” Plasencia said.
Gophers record-breaking pole vaulter Vesa Rantanen will save his energy for the Drake Relays (Des Moines, Iowa) next weekend. Along with Strand, Rantanen qualified for the NCAAs at the Texas Relays three weeks ago.
Even though the Gophers will split up the team and travel to different sites to compete this weekend, a common goal is shared by all — to earn a spot at the NCAAs in June.
Gophers Notes: Sophomore decathlete Glen Lindqvist will not compete this weekend because of injury.