The Big Ten indoor championships yielded disappointment for both the men’s and women’s teams.
The three-year defending champion men’s team finished second by a four-point margin to last year’s runner-up Indiana. Nebraska led most of the meet but finished third, one point behind the Gophers.
The Gophers trailed in fifth place after the first day of competition with 22 points. The team managed a comeback to finish the meet with 100 points and a second-place trophy.
“We took our lumps in the [preliminary] rounds and a couple of the finals on Saturday, and I think that kind of maybe served to dampen our expectations a little bit,” head coach Steve Plasencia said Saturday. “And then today, our guys came back with just a monster day in terms of accomplishment.
“We hate to lose, but I’m really, really proud of the team and the way they competed.”
The battle for first between Minnesota and Indiana lasted until the very last event, the 4x400-meter relay. Although Minnesota finished third ahead of fifth-place Indiana, it did not score enough points to bridge the gap.
Harun Abda was already Big Ten champion in the 400-meter dash and the 600 before he competed in the definitive relay.
“It came to the four-by-four, and we fought for it. Indiana had a good day, but we tried our best,” Abda said.
His time in the 600 of one minute, 15.86 seconds was a Big Ten record and also marked his third consecutive win in the event.
“We were trying to defend our team championships, so I tried hard to win both races so that we can add points and win the entire thing,” Abda said. “I’m happy I won both of them but kind of down a little bit. I wish we had won as a team, too.”
There were two other Big Ten champions for Minnesota besides Abda.
Hassan Mead won the 5,000 with an NCAA automatic qualifying time of 13:43.13. He also placed second in the 3K.
Micah Hegerle championed weight throw for the second year in a row with a 21.5-meter throw. His toss was also an NCAA automatic qualifying mark.
The men will compete next weekend at the Alex Wilson Invitational in South Bend, Ind., and the Washington Last Chance meet in Seattle, Wash., before the NCAA indoor championships March 9-10.
Women place last
The women’s team experienced a tough Big Ten championships.
The Gophers earned one team point Friday and managed only 10 more by the end of Saturday’s competition. The team took last in the 11-team field.
Nebraska took the title with 114.5 points.
“I’m very, very disappointed. A lot of unfortunate things happened before we came to the meet and things that are out of our control, and that’s kind of how seasons go,” head coach Matt Bingle said. “We walk away from the meet knowing that we didn’t do a very good job in terms of points, but we competed well at the meet.
“We’re going to get better, and we’re going to build this thing back to where it’s supposed to be.”
Senior Chimerem Okoroji placed fourth in the 60, which was the highest finish in all events for Minnesota. Her time of 7.41 seconds was a personal record. She also set a personal record of 24.36 seconds in the 200 preliminaries, but she did not make the finals.
“I was really glad that I was able to end it the way I did with the PR in the 60,” Okoroji said. “I was also really glad just to be able to have fun with it and not put too much pressure on myself because it was my last Big Ten indoors. I could really just focus on doing what I had to do and not so much on trying to make it memorable.”
Kylie Peterson placed seventh in the 60-meter dash behind Okoroji and earned two team points. With Okoroji’s five, the 60 comprised more than half the team’s total points.
Heather Brunn placed eighth in the 800-meter run to earn one point.
The 4x400 relay of Nyoka Giles, Chidera Obasih, Jessica Waldvogel and Megan Geyen finished seventh for two points. An eighth-place finish for the distance medley relay of Geyen, Kathryn Ritter, Lauren Domski and Katie Moraczewski also tallied a point.
The women will not compete again until after the NCAA indoor championships. The team begins the outdoor season at the Aztec Invitational on March 16-17 in San Diego.