The Gophers men’s and women’s track and field teams dominated the Jack Johnson Minnesota Classic on Friday and Saturday at the University Fieldhouse.
The men tallied 236.5 points, ahead of second-place South Dakota (105 points) and third-place North Dakota State (84.5 points).
“As far as a stepping stone,” men’s head coach Steve Plasencia said, “I think we’re on the right track.”
The Gophers won 11 events at the meet. Many seasoned athletes competed in off-events for training purposes, giving younger members of the team a chance to take the spotlight.
“I think we have a pretty solid group of senior leadership,” Plasencia said. “But we know there’s a need for some of the younger guys to start making their mark.”
Junior John Simons won the mile run with a time of 4:08.74, followed by his teammate, junior Bobby Nicolls, in second. The mile was an off-event for both of them, as Simons competes in the 3,000- and 5,000-meter runs, and Nicolls is training for the outdoor steeplechase.
Simons said he hopes running the mile early in the season will help lower his times in his main events.
“I think it’s just a really good sign of things to come,” Simons said. “I think it’s rewarding to see a good result in an event I’m not focusing on this spring.”
Plasencia said several runners from longer and shorter distances competed in the mile this weekend.
“I definitely was happy with the way those guys ran,” Plasencia said. “We put some emphasis in our group on that mile. We let a lot of our guys run that, kind of figuring that if you put them together, probably something decent [is] going to come out of it.”
Minnesota won nearly every race on the track. Senior Sean King won the 60-meter dash in 6.75 seconds while senior Cameron Boy won the 200-meter dash in 21.69 seconds. Junior Jacob Capek won the 400-meter dash in 48.83 seconds.
Sophomore Goaner Deng won the 600-meter run in 1:19.90, and senior Nick Hutton won the 800-meter run in 1:51.52.
In the field, redshirt sophomore Danny Schiller won the high jump with a height of 2.06 meters. Senior Sam Kettenhofen leapt 7.24 meters to win the long jump, and senior Oladipo Fagbemi won the triple jump with a distance of 14.83 meters.
Redshirt sophomore Mark Jennings won the shot put invite with a throw of 17.64 meters. Junior Jon Lehman earned the weight throw title for his 20.26-meter throw.
The Gophers will compete again this Saturday at the Bill Bergan Classic in Ames, Iowa, and the Warren Bolus Open in Menomonie, Wis.
The women’s track and field team scored 203 points to claim the team title, ahead of North Dakota State (135 points) and Western Michigan (128 points).
The Gophers won seven events at the meet — two courtesy of senior Todea-Kay Willis.
Willis championed the long jump with a distance of 5.95 meters and the 60-meter dash with a time of 7.50 seconds.
Willis redshirted the 2012 indoor season in order to have a full indoor and outdoor season in 2013, but a left hip injury early last year forced her to focus on rehab during her redshirt season instead of training.
“Coming off of the injury last year, it’s in the back of your mind,” Willis said. “But I’ve been through a lot of work, and practice has been going well. So I’m not even worried about it, and I’m just happy to be healthy.”
Willis said she was pleased with her performance at the Jack Johnson Classic, but there is a long way to go before she and her team are at the top of their game.
“The girls are showing really good potential,” Willis said. “We’re not really at that ready-to-go pace yet, but the fact that they’ve been competing so hard this weekend and they really enjoyed it really is a good indication that we can do something big.”
Head coach Matt Bingle said the meet was a solid group effort, especially since this was the first time all of the athletes had competed in their key events for a team score.
Minnesota earned the top four places in the mile run. Junior Laura Docherty crossed the line first at 4:53.08, followed by redshirt freshman Becca Dyson, sophomore Molly Kayfes and junior Maggie Bollig.
Senior Alena Brooks won the 600-meter run in 1:31.49. Also on the track, Minnesota’s ‘A’ team won the 4x400-meter relay, clocking in with a Fieldhouse record time of 3:47.48.
In the field, redshirt freshman Bria Halama leapt 11.97 meters to win the triple jump. Sophomore Tina DeLakis won the shot put invite with a toss of 15.18 meters.
“[The team] is a little bit deeper,” Bingle said. “A lot of the kids that were young last year are stepping up now and had a good training over the past year. So we’re pleased with the development.”
The Gophers will return to action this Friday and Saturday at Minnesota State-Mankato.
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