MINNEAPOLIS – The University of Minnesota women's track & field team is set to kick off the 2018 indoor season. Director of women's track & field and cross country Matt Bingle and assistant coach Peter Miller look ahead at the season for the Gophers' multis and jumpers as GopherSports.com previews each event group.
Five Gophers are set to compete in the multi-events this year led by returners Sofie Albrechtsen and Kayla Nelson. Hannah Arason and Ashley Ramacher are both making their collegiate debuts after competing unattached last season. Ayesha Champagnie joins the Gophers multis as a junior transfer from Barton Community College where she was the back-to-back national champion in the pentathlon.
“Our two redshirt freshmen are way ahead of where they were last year,” Bingle said. “We’re excited about them coming back. They had good redshirt seasons and got a lot of good experience. This year, they are a lot more mature and they are practicing a lot better. We feel good about where they are at and where they can be. We still have to keep working at practice because there is still a lot of room for improvement for both of them.”
Albrechtsen and Nelson return with B1G experience. Albrechtsen placed seventh in the B1G pentathlon last season after securing a podium finish in third place in 2016. She begins her junior year ranked third in Minnesota history with a career best of 3,906 points. Meanwhile, Nelson begins her redshirt sophomore season after steady improvements, including placing 11th in the 2017 B1G pentathlon with then a career-best score of 3,413 points.
“Kayla Nelson already set a PR at SDSU to start off the season,” Bingle said. “Physically, she’s way ahead of where she was last year at this time. She needs to continue to grow, but we are excited about where she is at right now. We also are excited about Ayesha’s addition to the team. She joins us as the junior college national champion, and she will be able to help us right away.”
Minnesota returns its indoor program record-holder and its outdoor program record-holder in the high jump in senior Heta Tuuri and junior Taylor Wiebke, respectively. Multis Ramacher and Albrechtsen add depth to the Gophers’ high jump corps as well.
“When you return both the indoor school record-holder and the outdoor school record-holder, it’s a pretty exciting year,” Miller said. “Both of them are physically better and emotionally more mature than they have been in years past. They both have felt a little more success and a little more failure – they saw both ends of the spectrum last year, so it will be interesting to see how that works for them.
“They are two awesome women who are doing everything right, so I want to see them be successful,” Miller continued. “Every day, it’s the same thing in practice. There is really good competition; the things that Taylor is really good at, Heta is not as good at, and vice versa, so they push each other in certain areas and it’s exciting.”
Last season, Wiebke took third at the B1G indoor meet and tied for seventh outdoors. She cleared a career-best 1.85m (6-00.75) to win high jump at the Longhorn Invite and went on to tie for 21st at the NCAA Outdoor Championship in her national debut. Meanwhile, Tuuri placed fifth indoors and sixth outdoors at Big Tens last year; she brings NCAA experience into her senior year after placing 17th in high jump at the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Championship. She set her PR with a leap of 1.80m (5-10.75) at the 2015 Minnesota Open.
“We have a ton of talent, but we have a lot of work ahead of us,” Miller said. “We have to stay healthy, take care of ourselves, and focus on what we need to do to get better each day. It’s exciting to have talent and have a group that really cares about one other.”
Long Jump and Triple Jump
Wright leads Minnesota’s returners as a junior after recording an indoor career-best mark of 12.88m (42-03.25) in triple jump to place sixth and move into third in program history at the 2017 B1G Indoor Championship; she earned a podium finish in third in triple jump at the B1G meet as a true freshman the previous year.
Meanwhile, Murray joins the Gophers as a jumper from St. Andrew High School in Kingston, Jamaica. A versatile athlete with the ability to compete in all three jumps, Murray has personal-bests marks of high school personal-best marks of 1.75m (5-08.75) in high jump, 5.77m (18-11.25) in long jump, and 12.61m (41-04.50) in triple jump.
“We’re excited about the potential of Lorean Murray,” Bingle said. “She will compete in uniform indoors as a true freshman. She had a good fall, and she is a good learner. I feel like she has a high potential long term, and we are hoping she will have an impact in the short term. Outdoors, we may push for her to help us with the 4x100m relay, and indoors she will long jump and triple jump. She has done a good job so far and is very coachable.”
Minnesota’s pole vault squad includes two returners in redshirt sophomore Lexi Kiefer and redshirt junior Macy Narr, along with senior transfer Karlie Place, who joins the team after three seasons at UW-Milwaukee.
“Lexi has had an unbelievable fall,” Bingle said. “She has really matured emotionally, and she is committed to the whole process on and off the track – and it shows. She has been doing awesome things in practice and is really coachable. She has grown from last year and has learned a lot. I’m really happy with where she’s at. Karlie has transitioned really well as a transfer and has bought into everything. She and Lexi have worked well together.”
Kiefer cleared a career-best 4.00m (13-01.50) at the Longhorn Invite and ended the season tied for eighth among all-time Gophers along with tying for ninth at the 2017 B1G Outdoor Championship during her first season competing in uniform last spring while Narr begins the season with a career-best mark of 3.82m (12-06.25) set during the 2017 outdoor campaign.
Place was the 2016 Horizon League indoor pole vault champion and most recently posted a 2017 season-best mark of 3.77m (12-04.50) during the indoor season. She left UW-Milwaukee as the outdoor program record-holder with a PR of 4.06m (13-03.75).
Check back to GopherSports.com as the Gophers coaching staff previews the indoor sprints, hurdles, relays, distance, and throwing events before Minnesota's season-opening weekend on Friday, Jan. 12 (UST Opener) and Saturday, Jan. 13 (Minnesota vs. Wisconsin Dual).
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