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Minnesota Track and Field: Gophers Earn Three Individual Big Ten Championships

The women finished 3rd as a team, and the men fifth

Brad Rempel—

The Minnesota Gophers hosted the 2022 Big Ten Track and Field Championships at their newish facility this weekend, and several of their athletes enjoyed the home field advantage. Minnesota earned three individual Big Ten Championships—all repeats of titles won in 2021 as well as the women finished in third place and the men finished in fifth place in the team standings.

Day one on Friday belonged to Minnesota thrower Kostas Zaltos. He earned his second consecutive championship in the hammer throw with a toss of 71.40m (234’ 3”) winning by over five feet. Minnesota added a fifth place performance in the hammer throw from Jake Kubiatowicz with a throw of 65.97m.

On the women’s side they added two podium finishes in the hammer throw as well. Tess Keyzers finished in third place with a throw of 62.76m (205-11) while Devia Brown finished in 8th pace with a throw of 57.65m.

The highlight of Friday on the women’s side was pole vaulter Lexy Berger. Berger jumped a career best three separate times with her final height of 4.28m being the fourth best in program history. It was good enough for a second place finish in the conference. She tied Chloe Timberg of Rutgers at the 4.28m height, but Berger had one more miss at previous heights than Timberg thus she got the gold and Berger had to settle for silver.

Day two’s title was another repeat as graduate student Alec Basten defended his title in the 3000m steeplechase winning again in a time of 8:45.06. His teammate Mathew Wilkinson went right with him breaking away from the lead back and took second place in 8:46.39. We would hear from those two again on Sunday.

The Minnesota men also earned scoring points from Jaydon Antoine in the long jump. He was in third place after his first jump at 7.38m (24-2 1/2), but could not get any further and would fall to a seventh place finish.

The Minnesota women earned another pair of silver medals on the day. Shelby Frank was the favorite in the women’s discus and did all she could to bring home the title but it still wasn’t enough. Frank improved her lifetime best two times in the event and finished at 58.85m breaking and resetting her own school record twice and recording the fifth longest throw in the nation. Unfortunately Indiana’s Jayden Ulrich uncorked a throw of 59.01 to win the event.

Minnesota also got a second place finish from Nyalaam Jok in the high jump. She was perfect through her first four height attempts peaking at 1.79 meters. She could not sneak above the bar at 1.82, but Nebraska’s Jenna Rogers did taking home the gold.

Hannah Morris would earn a 5th place finish in the long jump. her opening leap of 6.01m (19-8 3/4) led the competition after the first three prelim jumps, but shoe could not better that mark and slid down to fifth place.

The final day on Sunday had several other Gophers earning podium spots. The third individual win on the weekend and the third repeat from 2021 belonged to Abigail Schaaffe who came from behind to run a 57.45 and win the 400 meter hurdles. Schaaffe would team with Jayla Campbell, Janelle Josephs and Val Larson to finish third place in the 4x400 meter relay as well. Minnesota led through two legs but Larson struggled on her third leg and the baton pass to Schaaffe was not as crisp as they may have liked and thus she could not chase down Ohio State and Iowa ahead of her.

Minnesota earned a silver medal in the other relay on the day in the 4x100. Amira Young, Odell Frye, Akilah Lewis and Lauren Hansen combined to run 44.38 which was their best time of the season and the third best time in school history.

Megan Hasz ended her Minnesota Big ten career with a great performance in the women’s 5,000 meters. She finished 10th in the 10K on Friday and then battled in the lead pack the entire race to finish in third place in the 5k in a time of 16:22.04.

Tiera Robinson Jones would also earn a medal finishing third in the women’s triple jump. Her best jump would be 13.12m just off her career best.

The Gopher women earned team points from Young and Frye in two more races. Frye finished in sixth place in the women’s 100 meters with Young right behind her in 7th place. Young them came back to finish in 7th place in the 200 meters later in the day.

The Gopher women finished with 87 team points comfortable in third place. Ohio State ran away with the team title setting a new record with 185.5 points, while Wisconsin was in second with 98. Penn State was behind Minnesota in 4th with 82.5 points.

On the men’s side Minnesota was led by Basten and Wilkinson once again. The due who finished 1-2 in the 3000m steeplechase the previous day stayed in the lead pack throughout the majority of the men’s 5,000 meters with Basten finishing in second place and Wilkinson in fourth.

True freshman Floyd Whittaker earned a 5th place finish in the triple jump with a leap of 15.60 meters. It is now the 5th longest jump in school history. His teammate Alstian Walker jumped 15.37 meters to finish in 8th place.

Kaleb Siekmaier would finish 4th in the men’s discus with a throw of 56.50 meters, with Kubiatowicz right behind in 6th place with a throw of 55.42.

Kion Benjamin would earn the Gophers points in back to back races with a fourth place finish in the 200 meters and a 5th place finish in the 100 meters. Benjamin won the Big Ten title a year ago with a time of 10.26, and this year ran an insane career best 10.14 and finished in fifth.

The final scoring performance for the Go[her men came in the pole vault with an 8th place finish by Mike Herauf. Minnesota scored 73 team points to finish in 5th place behind Champion Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nebraska.

The Gopher track and field teams will now await to see which athletes will get qualifying invites to the NCAA West Regional in Fayetteville, Arkansas from May 26-28.