Monday, February 28, 2011

Three-Peat: Gopher Men Win Big Tens Again

The University of Minnesota men's track and field team won its third consecutive Big Ten Indoor Championships with a narrow 117.33 to 104.5 victory over Indiana yesterday in Champaign, Illinois.

The results was the closest team finish at the meet since 2003, when Wisconsin edged the Gophers by just two points.

“This was such a hard-fought meet,” Minnesota head coach Steve Plasencia said afterward. “Being in the heart of the battle, with the meet tight all day, it’s all still kind of a blur. I haven’t appreciated that we won this thing yet but we have the trophy. I’m happy for the team.”

After Indiana scored 19 points in the 5000-meters, the meet's penultimate event, the Gophers, leading by 9.67 points, needed an error-free 4 x 400-meter relay to win the title.

“We told them what the situation was, that they just needed to run hard, avoid contact and hang on to that baton,” Plasencia explained.

The team of John Holton, Max Hanson, Jacob Capek and Harun Abda provided exactly that with a 5th-place finish in 3:15:35. Indian finished 8th in the event.

The Gophers were paced by individual titles from Harun Abda, who defended his 600m crown; Ben Blankenship, defended his mile title; the distance medley relay team of Nick Hutton, Abda, Travis Burkstrand and Blankenship; and Micah Hegerle who won the wight throw.

A key event for the Gopher was the 800m, where Travis Burkstrand, Nick Hutton, and Max Hanson finished 3rd-4th-5th and Wisconsin's Minnesota-bred star Zach Mellon, the #1 seed entering the meet, did not finish.

Wisconsin finished third as a team with 96 points.

The Gopher men have now won the last five Big Ten track and field title awarded -- indoors and outdoors.

Final results can be found HERE.

The Gopher women finished third at Big Tens with 73 points, behind champions Ohio State (122.5) and runners-up Penn State (86).

“We would have needed to have almost a perfect meet to get second place in this meet,” head coach Matt Bingle said. “We left a lot of points at home due to injury, but the athletes at the meet gave us whatever they had and you can’t ask for more."

Samantha Sonnenberg won the team's lone individual title with her pole vault win on Saturday.

Six teams finished within 20 points of the Gophers, who improved a place from last year's meet.

"It was a tight race from third to 10th and we just kept clawing away and fought hard. I’m happy with where we are. We’ll get back to work, hopefully get healthy, and give it a good run in the outdoor championships.”

Find complete women's results HERE.

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