April 26, 2013
DES MOINES, Iowa - Goaner Deng, Alex Brend, Travis Burkstrand and Harun Abda combined to give the Minnesota men's outdoor track and field team its third-straight Drake Relays 4x800 title on Friday evening at Drake Stadium.
The Gophers contingency clocked a winning time of 7:26.49 to highlight the second day of action at the national meet and post the fourth-best time in the NCAA this year in the 4x800 meter relay.
Friday's winning chemistry mixed experience and youth as Burkstrand and Abda have now been part of three-straight 4x800 meter titles at the Drake Relays while Deng and Brend - both redshirt freshmen this season - stepped into their roles nicely as the first and second legs of the relay, respectively. After the pair of newcomers kept the Gophers in the front of the pack for the first two legs, Minnesota's veterans built up a good lead the rest of the way as Minnesota took home its first title of this year's relays.
“Harun and I have ran in the last two, and we have two new guys with us now, but we knew they could put down good legs for us, get us out front and we can close it out," Burkstrand said after the race. "They did a great job of getting us the baton where we needed it.”
The Gophers' 4x400 meter relay team finished first in its heat and third overall in Friday's preliminaries to advance to the finals on Saturday. The squad of Kevin Bradley, Abda, Jacob Capek and Cameron Boy clocked a time of 3:08.25 while Illinois paced the competition, followed by Nebraska.
Minnesota also had a notable performance with Oladipo Fagbemi's sixth-place finish in the long jump. Fagbemi's leap of 7.46 meters (24-05.75 ft.) is a personal best for the Gopher and ranks seventh all-time at Minnesota.
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Ali claimed the program's first national championship in the steeplechase by breaking his own school record at 8:32.23 on Friday night at Hayward Field.
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Competing at historic Hayward Field at the University of Oregon, Ali led the semifinal field with a time of 8:39.17 on Wednesday to advance to Friday's final at 7:54 p.m. CT.