Northwest Open Kicks off 2014
Jan. 16, 2014
The University of Minnesota men's track & field program kicks off the 2014 indoor campaign on Saturday with the Northwest Open at the University of Minnesota Fieldhouse on campus.
UPDATED: Field events are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. CT with running events to follow at 11:30 p.m.
Gophers Start Season Ranked Ninth
The U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCA) announced its preseason rankings earlier this week with Minnesota pegged ninth in the national rankings. The Gophers were one of four Big Ten teams ranked in the top 10 along with Wisconsin (fourth), Penn State (sixth) and Nebraska (eighth). No other conference in the nation had more teams ranked in the top 10 than the Big Ten.
Leading the Charge
While the Gophers lost a considerable amount of talent from last year's squad including Harun Abda, who graduated as the most decorated student-athlete in Gopher track & field history with 13 All-America honors and six Big Ten titles, Minnesota also brings back a wide range of distinguished competitors for the 2014 indoor season. Among the top returners are All-Americans Jon Lehman (weight throw), John Simons (mile), Goaner Deng (4x400 relay) and Jacob Capek (4x400 relay). The Gophers also bring in a sizable freshmen class that will bolster the track & field lineup this season.
2013 Northwest Open Recap
The Gophers picked up 10 individual titles in the 2013 season opener last year at the University of Minnesota Fieldhouse including 1-2-3 finishes in both the weight throw (Jon Lehman, Quentin Mege, Justin Barber) and the pole vault (Jack Szmanda, Zach Siegemeier, Logan Markuson).
Honoring Roy Griak
The 2013 Minnesota men's track & field and cross country season marks the 50th year of service to the University of Minnesota by legendary coach Roy Griak. Griak served as the head coach of the Minnesota men's cross country team from 1963-1996 and led the Gophers to three Big Ten titles. Griak has remained on staff as an administrative assistant since handing over the reigns of the program to current Director of Men's Track & Field and Cross Country Steve Plasencia. Minnesota honors its long-time coach each Fall with the Roy Griak Invitational -- the 28th running of the Griak was ran on Sept. 28.
Coach Plasencia's Comments
On the Northwest Open...
"I'm very much looking forward to this Saturday's meet and having the opportunity to see some of our guys compete for the first time in a while. Our guys that didn't run cross country -- our runners and field event guys -- have had a long couple of months to get ready, and they are anxious to compete as is our coaching staff. This meet will be a little bit of a rust buster, but it's important for guys to guage where they are and start the season off strong. We don't expect huge performances, but we do expect steps in the right direction."
Who to watch this season...
"We have a lot of guys coming back this season who have done a very good job for us in the past. Jon Lehman was an All-American weight thrower for us -- he's definitely one to watch. John Simons was fifth in the indoor mile last year and an All-American -- he's another guy we will be watching. He might not go this weekend, but he'll be training. Zach Siegemeier was a Big Ten outdoor champion last year in the pole vault and had some pretty consistent heights. He'll be another guy that we'll be counting on this season. Those three guys come to mind, and then we have a host of other guys that we think will step up this season -- guys like Alex Brend, Marcus Paulson, Justin Barber and Brad Johnson. We had a couple young guys we are anxious to see as well. There's some talent in that freshmen class, and we are excited to get them started."
On the freshmen...
"We will probably have a good contingency of unattached runners this weekend just so we can see where guys are before we make a decision on redshirting them. I do expect that there will be a few guys in that freshmen class that will compete for us this year."
On Roy Griak...
"Roy is a heart and soul kind of guy. He has earned great respect from the staff around the department, all of our student-athletes, the running community and beyond. We all watch how tough Roy is even at 90 years old -- he exudes all the right stuff that we look to represent as a program, and he is a huge part of our program here at the University of Minnesota."
Up Next -- Jack Johnson Invitational
Minnesota hosts its second of three home meets next weekend with the Jack Johnson Invitational at the University of Minnesota Fieldhouse. The two-day meet starts on Friday, Jan. 24 and runs through Saturday, Jan. 25.