May 26, 2012
Senior Hassan Mead (5,000 meters) and Junior Nick Hutton (1,500 meters) gave Minnesota two more individual berths in the 2012 NCAA Men's Outdoor Track & Field Championships and the Gophers' 4x400 relay team also advanced to nationals during the final day of competition of the NCAA West Preliminary Saturday in Austin, Texas.
A seventh Gopher individual, junior Jack Szmanda, had previously qualified for the national meet in the decathlon.
Also moving on were the Gophers' 4x400 relay team of sophomore Jacob Capek, Abda, junior John Holton and junior Kevin Bradley, who teamed up to run a time of 3:08.11 to finish third in the meet's final heat to grab the final automatic qualification spot.
"We had a good night, so that was good to see," said head coach Steve Plasencia. "With Nick (Hutton), Hassan (Mead) and the 4x400 getting in that was all good stuff. After the Big Ten meet we were a little bit down. Coming down here our goal was to make a little noise and I think we accomplish that. Now we have to turn it around, get ready and see what we can do in Des Moines at the finals."
Mead, the school record-holder at 5,000 meters, easily advanced by winning his heat in a time of 14:16.06 and will give the senior another shot at winning a national title.
"Hassan ran a really smart race and then put the hammer down at the end," Plasencia said. "He's a guy that has done so much for our program and been through so much during his time at the `U' I was very happy for him."
Hutton knocked more than 1.5 seconds off his preliminary-round 1,500-meter time from Thursday to earn his spot in the national meet. The junior finished Saturday's quarter final in a time of 3:44.64, equaling his best 1,500 time of the season, but only placing him sixth in his heat. With just the top five in each heat automatically advancing to Des Moines, Hutton had to sweat out the second heat to see if he would move on. Ironically, his time would have won the second heat by nearly a second, and he was easily through to nationals.
Four Gophers battled for one of 12 advancing spots in the discus, but only freshman Dominique Howard, who launched the seventh-longest discus throw in school history Saturday, was able to get out of the first round. His lifetime-best throw of 183-03 on his first attempt was good enough to finish second in his heat, but he was unable to better the distance on his ensuing five attempts and ended the competition in 14th place. Freshman Mark Jennings won his heat with a throw of 175-10, but the distance was not enough to move him on in the competition. Senior Trey Davis (169-09) and freshman Justin Barber(160-05) also did not advance past the first round.
Minnesota's 4x100-meter relay team ran into some bad luck and missed out on advancing to nationals. The team of sophomore Jacob Capek, junior Sean King, junior Cameron Boy and junior Sam Kettenhoff committed a zone violation and were disqualified.
Boy felt a twinge coming off the curve in the quarterfinals of the 200-meter dash forcing him to shut it down early and was unable to advance for the Gophers as an individual.
The 2012 NCAA Men's Track & Field Championships will take place on the campus of Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, June 6-9.
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A two-time All-American and three-time Big Ten champion, Zach Siegmeier will serve as director of operations for men's track & field and cross country.
Blankenship, Mead Shine in Olympic Finals
Mead and Blankenship recorded the best Olympic finishes by Gophers since Staffan Strand finished sixth in the high jump for Sweden during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.
Blankenship Punches Ticket to Olympic Final
Ben Blankenship (1,500) and Hassan Mead (5,000) will run in Olympic finals on Saturday night.