Mead captured the Midwest Region 5,000-meter run, pacing himself much like he did in the Big Ten title race. Mead took the lead with 300 meters to go then held off New Mexico’s Jacob Kirwa to win his first regional crown. Chris Rombough hung with the lead pack until falling back with 800 meters to go, finishing 12th with a time of 14:14.33.
“For the most part, we had the guys earn automatic berths to the NCAAs that we thought we would in Mead, Studt and Fisher,” said Golden Gopher head coach Steve Plasencia. “Hopefully tomorrow we will see some pleasant surprises and get a few more people headed for NCAAs.”
Aaron Studt finished second in the shot put with a throw of 60 feet, 3 1/4 inches to grab Minnesota’s first automatic NCAA qualifier of the day. Studt, the Big Ten indoor and outdoor champion in the event marked his top throws in his very first attempt of prelims (60-2) and his sixth and final throw of the final. Studt will make this second trip to the NCAA Outdoor Championships. Studt will compete in the hammer throw on Saturday.
The Gophers had two other competitors in the shot put. Trey Davis finished 10th with a throw of 55-3 1/2 (just 3 1/2 inches off his career best) and Tyler Kleinhauizen, who finished 16th with a throw of 52-0 1/2. Davis will compete in his second event of this regional meet, the discus, tomorrow afternoon.
Matt Fisher earned an automatic qualifier in the high jump with a third place finish. Fisher cleared 7-1 to advance to his first outdoor NCAA Championships. Kansas State’s Scott Sellers won the regional crown and matched Fisher’s nation-leading height of 7-4 1/2. Gopher freshman Matt Clauer competed in the event but did not make the first height of the competition of 6-8 3/4.
Minnesota collected a pair of finals qualifiers in the men’s 1,500-meter run. Ben Blankenship finished second in his heat with a season-best time of 3:45.14. True freshman Andy Richardson, the Gophers’ only true-blue rookie on their regional roster, also advanced with a time of 3:46.07.
Senior Ibrahim Kabia saw in collegiate career come to a close when he did not make the final field in the 100-meter dash despite running a season-best time of 10.37. The top eight times advance, Kabia was ninth. A Gopher team captain, Kabia finishes his career as the Minnesota recordholder in the 100 meters (10.29).
Redshirt freshman Joe McFarland got his first taste of regional competition. McFarland ran a time of 1:51.47 in his prelim of the 800 meters, to finish 14th in the prelims. Luke Silovich also ran his first regional race and clocked a time of 14.63 seconds in the 110-meter high hurdles.
The top five finishers in the 19 events contested at the regional championships advance to the NCAA Championships, hosted by the University of Arkansas on June 10-13.
Gophers Claim Five Titles at Stanford
Meanwhile, four unattached Gopher freshmen picked up titles at Concordia-St. Paul’s Holst Invitational on Saturday at SeaFoam Stadium in St. Paul.
Harold Headlines Opening Day at Stanford
The Gophers also added three top-10 all-time performances on Friday from Mitch Hechsel, Luke May and Obsa Ali.
Minnesota Heads West for Cardinal Classic
The Cardinal Classic is a two-day meet (Friday-Saturday) set at Cobb Track and Angell Field while the Holst Invitational is scheduled for Saturday at SeaFoam Stadium.