Mead and Blankenship will be the 12th and 13th Olympic competitors for the Gophers men’s track & field and cross country program.
A native of Stillwater, Minn., Blankenship took third in the 1,500 meter final at Hayward Field, clocking a 3:36.18.
The Minneapolis, Minn., native ran a 13:35.70 at Hayward Field to earn his first bid to the Olympics.
Sean Donnelly posted the top all-time finish and performance by a Gopher hammer thrower to earn First Team honors.
The No. 16 University of Minnesota men's track & field program will send six competitors to the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships next month in Oregon.
University of Minnesota alum and former All-American Steve Plasencia enters his eighth year as Director of Men's Track & Field and Cross Country in 2016.
Since taking over the program in 2009, Plasencia has guided the Golden Gopher track & field program to five Big Ten team titles, 35 Big Ten individual titles and a total of 75 All-America honors.
Plasencia's first two seasons at the helm were easily among the finest in Golden Gopher men's track & field program history. Minnesota has recorded back-to-back sweeps of the Big Ten indoor and outdoor team titles. The Gophers' top NCAA Championships performance during the span was an impressive eighth-place showing at the 2010 NCAA indoor meet.
Plasencia was awarded his fifth consecutive Big Ten Coach of the Year award, adding the 2011 indoor accolade to those from the 2009 and 2010 indoor and outdoor seasons. He was also named Midwest Regional Head Coach of the Year in 2011.
A veteran of among Minnesota coaches, Plasencia has stood at the helm of the Golden Gophers' men's cross country team for 16 seasons. He embarks on his fourth season as the head track in 2012, a position he accepted in the summer of 2008.
A dominating performance winning six event titles and compiling 160.5 points, Minnesota cruised to the Big Ten indoor crown in 2010. Team depth was once again the difference in the outdoor meet, hoisted the trophy and celebrated the season sweep for overall the Gophers' fourth straight Conference crown. Tying a school-best with nine All-Americans, the Gophers finished eighth in the NCAA Indoor Championships, the highest finish since 2003.
Winning five events and compiling 135 points, Minnesota captured the 2009 Big Ten indoor crown; the Gophers' first indoor title since 1989. The Gophers added the outdoor title to garner their second Big Ten indoor/outdoor sweep matching that of the 1989 season. With All-Americans Hassan Mead, Chris Rombough and Aaron Studt leading the way, the Gophers tied for 14th at the NCAA indoor meet. Mead and Studt also scored outdoor as the Gophers placed 37th.
The Gophers' men's cross country program has flourished under Plasencia's direction. The past 14 years have seen Minnesota make 12 trips to the NCAA Cross Country Championships with the 2007 squad highlighting the Gophers' success as they celebrated an eighth-place finish, the third highest in school history and the highest of Plasencia's tenure. During that span, Plasencia was charged with the distance runners on the track coaching staff.
Plasencia is the ninth head men's track & field coach in Minnesota history and just the fourth coach since 1937. Successful coaching longevity has been a hallmark of the program with Jim Kelly's tenure from 1937-63, Roy Griak from 1964-95 and Phil Lundin from 1995-2008.
One of Minnesota's top athletes, Mead has played a starring role for Plasencia's teams. In 2008-09, Mead won five individual Big Ten titles (cross country, 3,000 meters, indoor 5,000 meters, outdoor 5,000 meters and the 10,000 meters). In 2009, Mead joined Rombough as the only three-time cross country All-Americans in school history after defending both his Big Ten and NCAA Midwest Region titles. The Gophers placed 24th at the 2009 NCAA Cross Country Championships.
The 2008 cross country season included several landmark individual performances and another solid team performances placing 15th at the NCAA Championships. It was, however, the season where Mead stepped firmly into the limelight, winning the Big Ten and NCAA Midwest Region titles. At the NCAA Championships, Mead collected his second All-America citation, but at the national meet, it was Rombough who grabbed the starring role for the Gophers. Rombough dashed to a 17h-place finish to become the first three-time All-American in Golden Gopher men's cross country history. The Gophers also had six of their seven runners, the most in school history, earn all-region honors at the NCAA Midwest Region Championships.
The 2007 Gopher harriers crowned three All-Americans in Rombough, Mead and Forrest Tahdooahnippah. Another pair of Gophers, Justin Grunewald and Mike McFarland, captured all-region accord. On the track, Mead captured All-America honors as a true freshman and broke Plasencia's longstanding school record in the 5,000 meters. The Gophers swept the Big Ten outdoor long distance events with Mead winning the 5,000 meters and Rombough the 10,000 meters. Mead went on to compete at the U.S. Olympic Trials.
Competing in one of the nation's toughest cross country conferences, the Golden Gophers have annually finished among the upper echelon of the Big Ten Conference. In 2007, Minnesota ran to runner-up honors and was one of five Big Ten schools to run in the NCAA Championships. In 2004, seven Big Ten schools advanced to the NCAAs, matching the record number of conference teams that competed in the national meet in 2002.
Before becoming the eighth head coach in Minnesota men's cross country history and succeeding legendary Gopher coach Roy Griak, Plasencia gained coaching experience working with world-class athletes. In addition to coaching himself to two Olympic games, Plasencia advised training partners 1984 Olympian Don Clary and Mike Bilyeu, who finished sixth in the 5,000 meters at the 1992 Olympic Trials, on their training.
Plasencia was able to successfully mesh his expertise as a coach with a successful running career. He ran competitively from 1972 to 2001, and remains one of Minnesota's most decorated runners. Plasencia was a three-time cross country and two-time track All-American in the late 70s. He served as the team captain in 1977 and won the Fred O. Watson Award for the most valuable Golden Gopher cross country runner in 1976, `77 and `78.
Plasencia still holds four Minnesota cross country records, three of which were accomplished at a championship event. Plasencia was inducted into Minnesota's "M" Club Hall of Fame in 1994.
Plasencia's competitive running career did not end when he completed his Golden Gopher career. Plasencia went on to represent the United States in the 10,000 meters at both the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, and the 1992 Games in Barcelona, Spain. He was also the 1990 U.S. 10,000-meters champion. Plasencia nearly made his third straight trip to Olympic Games but finished fourth in the 1996 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and fifth in the 5,000 meters at the Track and Field Trials.
In addition to his Olympic experiences, Plasencia represented the U.S. in four World Championships. His top finishes were an eighth-place finish in the 10,000-meters in 1987 and a 10th-place showing in the marathon in 1995. He was inducted into the Minnesota Track and Field Hall of Fame in the fall of 1996.
Plasencia earned his bachelor's degree in business from Minnesota in 1979. He later earned a master's degree from Oregon in 1987. Prior to joining the Golden Gopher staff, he served as the director of sports respiratory medicine for Allergy and Asthma Associates in Eugene, Ore. He also worked as a cardiac rehabilitation therapist at Eugene's Sacred Heart Hospital.
Plasencia and his wife Theresa reside in Shoreview, Minn. They have two sons, Ryan and Alex.
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Blankenship, Mead Shine in Olympic Finals
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