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A preview to the upcoming track and field season

Athletes gear up for their indoor season driven by past successes, rigorous training and high aspirations.
Image by Brad Rempel (courtesy)
Track and field athlete Jaydon Antoine.

After a cross country season filled with strong performances, the Gophers women’s indoor track and field season kicks off on Dec. 8. Reflecting on the achievements of the previous year, the track and field team secured a commendable fourth place at the 2023 Big Ten Indoor Championship.

In contrast, the men’s track and field team will commence their season in Texas on March 2, opting out of indoor competitions. The men’s team had to opt out of indoor competitions because their indoor team was cut in 2020.

In the lead-up to the new season, athletes across disciplines have been undergoing rigorous training. For mid-distance and long-distance runners, the transition from cross country to track requires a nuanced approach.

Gophers cross country head coach and track and field assistant coach Sarah Hopkins said there is a wide variety of events athletes can participate in, so training will look significantly different between runners.

“From a coaching standpoint, you have to coach to those specific events,” Hopkins said. “So if we have a workout on the track, I might have to write five different workouts for that day for just the women.”

Erin Reidy, a mid-distance runner, finished fourth overall in the 800m race at the 2023 Big Ten Indoor Championship, running a 2:04:91, her current personal record just two seconds shy of the Minnesota record.

“We have a pretty good shot at getting another Big Ten championship,” Reidy said. “I know we were thinking of putting together a really stellar DMR (Distance Medley Relay) to try to make it to nationals, which I’ve never been to. So that’d be a really exciting goal to have.”

Reidy added she had some health concerns over the summer with a minor heart blip and a mild concussion. Despite her setbacks, she participated in the cross country season and is prioritizing her health this track season.

“Keep my health as my main priority, and just making sure that if I do get a little nick on the knee or a little cough, I really hone in on trying to take care of that,” Reidy said.

Sprinter Dalayni Etienne did not participate in cross country but has been training for the upcoming track season. Last year, Etienne’s best indoor finish was at the Cyclone Open, where she finished third overall in the 400 with a time of 56.92 seconds.

“I think the team dynamic has been great,” Etienne said. “Everyone on our team is just great individuals, great women and everyone just feeds off of the good vibes. It’s just been great at practice.”

Etienne added this year will be especially fun for her as she will return to her hometown of Miami, Florida, for the Hurricane Invite in March.

“That’ll be my first time competing at home in college,” Etienne said. “So I’m excited for that.”

Another athlete to look out for this season is Shelby Frank. Frank will be participating in the weight throw for the indoor season and discus and hammer for the outdoor season. She won a silver medal at the 2023 NACAC U23 Championships after reaching 56.96m in discus.

“I think especially the throws group has a great dynamic this year,” Frank said. “We’re all super supportive of each other, so I think that has been a positive thing training-wise.”

Last indoor season, Frank finished first overall in the weight throw at the Big Ten Indoor Championships, reaching 24.14m, and second overall in the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships, reaching 23.42m. She finished first or second overall in every meet that she competed.

Her goal this season is to prepare for the Olympic trials.

“For indoor, I kind of just want to have fun and see what happens,” Frank said. “Then for outdoor, do well at Big Tens, do well at nationals and then have some fun at the Olympic trials.”

Looking ahead to the men’s track and field season, the team acknowledged the challenges they faced in cross country and is determined to refocus for the outdoor track season.

“The guys have a little bit of downtime during indoor to just keep working on fitness and be ready for the outdoor season,” Hopkins said. “I think we’re excited to get a few more guys to the national meet and the regional meet and to score more points in Big Tens, but I think they’re ready to flip that switch [from cross country], to be able to train really hard and then also have it show up on race day.”

Though distance runner Emmet Anderson prefers cross country, he said he is looking forward to seeing what the track team will do during the outdoor season. Anderson finished in sixth place overall in the 10k at the Big Ten Outdoor Championships with a time of 30:25.54. At the same championship, he finished 13th overall in the 5k with a time of 14:46.88.

The transition to outdoor will be a time for the distance team to refocus and get healthy. Anderson believes the distance team has much to prove.

“We had a lot of illness, so I don’t think the [cross country] results represented our fitness very well, and I think that kind of left everybody with this hunger to try to prove the fitness they had,” Anderson said. “I think a lot of us feel like our results were severely misrepresenting our fitness. Looking forward to this track season, I think we got a lot of guys that are hungry to show where we belong.”

Sprinter Kion Benjamin is gearing up for his final season as a Gopher. Last season, Benjamin placed first overall in the 100m with a time of 10.18 and was a part of the first-place 4x100m relay team with a time of 38.87 at the Big Ten Outdoor Championship.

He previously ran the 4x100m men’s relay at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics representing his home country of Trinidad and Tobago. Additionally, he won a bronze medal in the 2021 NACAC U23 Championships.

This offseason, Benjamin has been working on increasing his strength.

“I’m a little smaller than other guys,” Benjamin said. “Getting stronger and slightly bigger will allow me to get more power. I’m already able to hold the speed that I bring. Once I am more powerful early on in the race, it will help me displace better.”

Benjamin was the first Gopher to go to nationals for the 100m but did not make it to the finals. His goal this season is to make nationals for both the 100m and 200m.

Another Trinidad and Tobago native, Jaydon Antoine, is equally excited for the season. Antoine, proficient in both sprinting and long jumping, holds a preference for the latter, finishing second on the team behind Michael Buchanan and 11th overall, reaching 7.31m, during the Big Ten Outdoor Championship.

“I think I have a lot of potential I have yet to show as a long jumper and a sprinter,” Antoine said. “I am looking forward to going out into a competitive atmosphere and showcasing what I am capable of. [I’m looking forward to] being able to expose the talents that I’ve been blessed with.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams are hungry to win. They are driven and focused, working toward getting stronger and faster for another promising season ahead.

Clarification: This article has been updated to include context about the teams’ decision to opt-out of the competition.

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