The University of Minnesota men's and women's track and field teams find themselves in the lead after the first day of competition at their respective Big Ten Indoor Championships.
The Gopher men, defending their 2009 title at home inside the Griak Fieldhouse, lead Ohio State 49.5 to 40.5 with five of the meet's finals in the books.
The Gopher women, seeking a fourth-straight Big Ten Indoor crown at Penn State, have tallied 41 points in their meet's six first-day finals, putting them ahead of Illinois' 37, Purdue's 36, and Wisconsin's 34.
Action in both meets culminates Sunday.
The Gopher Men ... Paced by Big Ten individual titles from shot putter Aaron Studt and pole vaulter Ben Peterson, the Gopher men find themselves in the drivers' seat after Saturdays' competition.
Studt, defending his 2009 title, needed a big mark on his final throw to win again. Trailing Penn State's Joe Kovacs by three centimeters after five rounds, Studt got the sell-out home crowd clapping behind him before entering the circle for his final heave, which he launched 63-6 3/4.
Sophomore Trey Davis joined Studt on the Big Ten podium with a 4th-place 57-5 1/2 throw.
Peterson, the 2008 Big Ten indoor champ who missed most of 2009 with injury, won his event in similar fashion. He cleared the meet-winning height of 17-6 1/2 on his third and final attempt, leading four Gopher vaulters to scoring places. Brock Spandl finished 3rd, Joe Plecner was 4th, and Jack Szmanda's tied for 6th, amassing a whopping 23.5 points.
Perhaps the most heroic effort by the maroon and gold was Chris Rombough's 3rd place, 8:10.11 finish in the 3000m. The Gopher senior, soloing in the event after Hassan Mead was forced out of the meet with a left Achilles tendon injury, lost a shoe with roughly seven laps to race.
Half-shod, Rombough still went to the lead with 1200 meters to go, stringing out the bunched, shoe-removing pack in doing so. Rombough wasn't strong enough in the final 600m to hold of Ohio State's Jeff See (8:06.46) and Adam Green (8:09.07), but he still raced his way to valuable Gopher points.
"I thought the team performed well overall," Head Coach Steve Plasencia said via a Gopher media relase. "The wins in the shot, and pole vault were big and our heptathlon is in good position. We had a lot of guys qualified through to the finals."
"As far as moving on to tomorrow," he continued, "we put ourselves in really good position, but we opened the door in the last few events. Ohio State scored 18 to close the gap, and Wisconsin scored a win [in the DMR where the Gophers were 9th] and have some good things coming. We will put the pencil to the paper tonight and see exactly what it does mean. We have some guys coming back tomorrow and it's just a matter of whether we have enough."
Heading into tomorrow's finals, Minnesota looks well-positioned to win the meet. Gopher heptathletes, led by defending champ R.J. McGinnis currently stand 1-2-6-7 in the meet.
The team advanced finalists into the 60m (Sean King), 400m (John Holton), 600m (Harun Abda, David Pachuta, and Logan Stroman), 800m (Travis Burkstrand and Joe McFarland), and mile (Ben Blankenship, Andy Richardson, and Paul Hilsen) during the day's competition and will have Rombough back in a pair of spike for the 5000m.
In the field, Aaron Studt, the #1-seed in the weight throw, will look to make himself a double-winner at the meet, while Matt Fisher will attempt to repeat his 2009 high jump victory.
The Gopher Women ... A one-two finish in the pole vault, a 3-4 finish in the 3000m, and runner-up performance by the Gopher DMR has the U of M women setting the pace once again at Big Tens.
Alicia Rue cleared 14-3 1/4 to win her third Big Ten pole vault crown, while Samantha Sonnenburg finished second clearing 13-9 1/4.
In the 3000m, Megan Duwell took third in 9:17.47, behind NCAA harrier champ Angela Bizzarri and Big Ten cross country victor Bridget Franek. Gopher 10,000 meter all-American Amy Laskowske finished 4th in 9:31.3457 ... the extra digits necessary to separate her from 5th-placer Wendi Robinson of Indiana's 9:31.3487.
Punctuating the day of racing, the Gopher distance medley of Elizabeth Yetzer, Chioma Omeoga, Alena Brooks, and Nikki Swenson finished second to Michigan for eight valuable team points.
“We had a very good first day,” Gopher head coach Matt Bingle said in a media release. “We had a lot of people hit personal bests and it’s always nice to see school records fall. Tomorrow will be interesting. All we can do is our best.”
Qualifying for finals on the track today were Kylie Peterson in the 60m, Rikita Butler in the 400m, Alena Brooks in the 600m, Nikki Swenson, Jamie Dittmar, and Kathryn Ritter in the 800m, and Elizabeth Yetzer in the mile.
Follow Sunday's Action ... via the links in the post below. Don't forget to check in on the USA Indoor Championships as well, where Team USA Minnesota's Heather Dorniden and frmer Burnsville prep Laura Januszewski will race in the 800m final. Also compete are Minnetonka alum Will Leer and fromer Winona prep Garrett Heath in the 1500m and Minnesota State, Mankato alum Katelin Rains in the pole vault.