June 6, 2012
A tough day on the track greeted the Minnesota men's track & field program as the Gophers opened up competition at the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships Wednesday at Drake University in Des Moines.
Gophers' director of men's track and field/cross country Steve Plasenciahad high hopes for his troops on the opening day, with possibility of the Gophers positioning themselves to garner points in both the decathlon and 800 meters. But it was not to be.
Senior David Pachuta and junior Harun Abdaquite frankly could not have run much better in their 800-meter heat. Both ran personal-best times, with Pachuta crossing the line in 1:46.62 and Abda finishing on his heels in a time of 1:46.65. Both times also bested Pachuta's previous school-record mark of 1:46.74 set last month at the Big Ten Championships.
Unfortunately for the Gopher duo, it would not be good enough to advance to Friday's final, despite being the sixth and seventh fastest times of the day. With the top two times moving on from each of three heats along with the next two fastest overall times for a total of eight student-athletes advancing, Pachuta and Abda were on the outside looking in after placing fifth and sixth, respectively, in their heat, 2/10th of a second behind the final qualifier.
"Those guys (Pachuta and Abda) both ran lifetime-bests so I can't fault them at all," said Plasencia. "It was such a good heat and both ran really strong races. The 800 meters is one of those races where the margins are very fine and today it just did not go our way."
More heartbreak unfolded earlier in the day for the Gophers in the decathlon. Junior Jack Szmandamade a valiant effort on an injured ankle, but was forced to pull out of the competition after just three events.
Szmanda, who scored 2344 over the first three events at the Big Ten Championships last month, could only manage 2,064 points in those three events Wednesday before shutting things down prior to the high jump.
Clearly competing well below his optimal level of fitness, Szmanda ran an 11.42 in the 100 meters (769 points), posted a long jump of 19-11 ¾ (606 points) and recorded a shot put of 43-10 (689 points) before pulling out of the competition.
The Gophers will be back in action at the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championships Thursday. Junior Nick Hutton will kick things off in his semifinal heat of the 1500 meters at 6:15 p.m., while Minnesota's 4x400-meter relay team will take to the track at 8:05 p.m.
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