The Minnesota Gophers track and field teams wrapped up the 2023 Big Ten Championships on Sunday in Bloomington, Indiana breaking records left and right. The Gopher men would finish as a team in second place in the conference championships, their best finish since 2013. Minnesota would bring home five individual event Big Ten Championships with countless other podium finishes. The Gopher men with a large portion of their best athletes redshirting the season finished in 7th place led by Gopher 5th year senior Amira Young going out with a bang in her final conference meet.
The Gopher men kicked things off with a huge day one on Friday. Minnesota throwers dominated the hammer throw with redshirt junior Kostas Zaltos winning the event for the third straight year. He was sitting in second place until his final throw of the event which he launched a Big Ten Championship record 74.93m. His three titles in a row are the first time a Gopher men’s track and field athlete has done that since Karl Erickson did it in the discus for Minnesota from 2002-04.
Besides Zaltos the Gophers also picked up a third place throw of 69.08m from Jake Kubiatowicz and a sixth place throw of 63.98m from Kaleb Siekmeier.
5th year senior transfer Austin Parsons saved the best for last as well as in his final javelin throw of the competition . His launch 72.15m broke a 30-year Minnesota school record , set a personal best and launched him into third place and a bronze medal.
The top performances on Friday continued as sophomore Jak Urlacher finished in fifth place in the pole vault with a leap of 5.24m and redshirt freshman Emmet Anderson came in with the 23rd best time in the 10,000m but would finish in sixth place for Minnesota. it was the first time the Gophers earned a top-8 finish in the event since 2015.
On Saturday it was Mathew Wilkinson to take his place as the king of the Steeplechase. Traditionally the Gophers best event in the recent past, Wilkinson finished second last year behind Gopher teammate Alec Basten. This time it was his turn to take the crown in a time of 8:38.40 beating the rest of the field by nearly eight seconds. Minnesota has now won the event in five of the last six Big Ten Championships. Behind Wilkinson in 5th place was the future of the event for the Gophers Noah Kohut-Jackson in a lifetime best time of 8:59.43.
The women were represented in the steeplechase as well as redshirt junior Taylor Kreitinger would run the ninth best time in program history at 10:17.09 to finish in fifth-place.
The rest of Saturday was qualification day as the Gopher sprinters on both the men’s and women’s side set times that would be a foreshadow to their impressive finals performances on Sunday.
Sunday was Kion Benjamin and Wilkinson’s day to shine. Wilkinson would would surprise everyone and make in two days in a row with a title as he would win the 5,000 m in a time of 13:51:21. He becomes the first ever Gopher to win both the steeplechase and 5,000 meters at the same Big Ten Championships and is the first Gopher to win the 5,000m since Hassan Mead did in 2009.
Benjamin started his day with the three other members of the Gophers 4x100 relay team in Carlon Hosten, Finn Schirmer and Devin Augustine in setting a Big Ten Championships meet record in winning the event with a time of 38.87. The time was the fourth-fastest time by any Big Ten team in history and gave the Golden Gophers their first 4x100m relay title since 2002 and their third in program history.
How do you follow that up? Benjamin would win the individual 100 m title about 30 minutes later when he ran 10.18 and won the event for the second time as a Gopher. Minnesota would also earn 3rd place finishes from Hosten and 7th place from Augustine in the event.
A half hour later the trio of Gophers sprinters competed in the 200 m and would take home a 2nd, third, and 5th place finish. Hosten led the way in 20.43 to finish 2nd, Augustine went 3rd in 20.45 and Benjamin would finish 5th in 20.72.
Siekmeier would lead the way for Minnesota in the discus throwing 56.55 m to finish in third place while Kubiatowicz was not far behind in 5th with a throw of 56.40m. Minnesota got two more fourth place finishes on the track from Michael Buchannon in the 110 meter hurdles, and the Gophers 4x400 relay team which features Hosten, Augustine, Ramy Ayoub, and Jaydon Antoine. The quartet ran a season best time of 3:06.93 in the final race of the meet to clinch their second place finish in the team standings ahead of third place Iowa.
The Gopher women had an impressive day as well, but just could not get over the hump to win any events. Minnesota earned a trio of second place finishes from the 4x100 relay team of Young, Odell Frye, Lauren Hansen and Akilah Lewis, Young in the 100m, and Nylaam Jok in the high jump.
Young would go out with one of the most impressive days in Gopher history as the 5th year senior broke THREE school records on Sunday. She led the 4x100 relay team to a time of 43.83 to finish second for the second straight year, and then broke her own school record in the 100 meters yet again with a time of 11.19 before breaking her own record in the 200 m with a time of 23.09 to finish in third place.
Other podium finishes for the Gopher women included Lewis taking fourth place in the 100m with a personal best time of 11.28, Janielle Josephs placing 5th and Jayla Campbell 7th in the 400 meters, the Gophers 4x400 meter relay of Josephs, Campbell, Dalayni Etienne, and Lauren Hansen placing 7th, and Zariyah Black and Maja Maunsbach finishing in 7th and 8th place in the 100m hurdles.
Next up for several members of the Gophers will be the NCAA West Regional in Sacramento, CA from May 24-27.