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 looks ahead at the season for the Gophers' sprinters and hurdlers as GopherSports.com previews each event group.
Indoor Event Previews: Multis and Jumps
Emma Spagnola and Rachael Schow lead the Gophers’ hurdlers already ranked among Minnesota’s all-time best. Spagnola is tied for the 60m hurdles program record at 8.13 seconds while Schow ranks third all-time with a PR of 8.52 seconds set last season.
“Rachel Schow has had a good fall and opened up really well in the 60m hurdles,” Bingle said. “She was faster than last year and is starting to understand things and is getting through the hurdles better. She’s only a tenth of a second away from where she PR’d last year at the end of the season. She is just going to keep getting better.
“Emma has physically changed over the last year. She has been super committed to the weight room and nutrition. She is even more mature and has improved in a lot of different areas over the past year. If she stays healthy, she can run lights out if we can get her going.”
Redshirt junior Lindsey Smits, redshirt sophomore Erin Huls, and redshirt freshman Meleah Biermaier add depth to the Gophers' hurdles corps. Smits is back after a breakout 2017 outdoor season, placing 10th in the Big Ten 400m hurdles and advancing to the NCAA West Prelim; Huls also returns with B1G and NCAA West Prelim experience. Biermaier will make her official Gophers debut after competing unattached in 2017.
Seniors Titania Markland and Emerald Egwim and sophomore Brieasha Hobbs lead Minnesota’s returners in the sprints group. Redshirt freshman Val Larson also returns for her first season competing in uniform and has already climbed up Minnesota’s all-time top-10 list in the 600m.
“Titania had an awesome fall and is really fast already,” Bingle said. “We still feel like we have a ways to go with her, too. She has been healthy and is training really well. She red shirted last year but was a Big Ten champion the year before. Titania has a big vision for herself and wants to have a really good year.”
The 2016 Big Ten champion in the 600m, Markland returns after red-shirting the 2017 season. Last spring, she ran a career-best time of 2:06.47 to place fifth in the 800m at the 2017 Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) National Senior Championships. She ranks second in program history in both the indoor 400m (54.34) and outdoor 400m (52.86) and owns the third-fastest 600m time in program history. Markland is part of Minnesota's program record-holding 4x400m relay teams both indoors and outdoors.
Egwim also brings significant experience to Minnesota’s sprints group. As a junior in 2017, she won the B1G outdoor 400m title and improved on her own indoor 400m (52.73) and outdoor 400m (51.99) program records while Hobbs ran an indoor 400m PR of 55.30 to rank ninth in program history as a true freshman before not competing during the outdoor season.
“Brieasha has improved a ton – she’s learning how to race, and she has improved physically,” Bingle said. “Val Larson, coming off a redshirt year, was significantly faster this year at SDSU. She has had a good fall and has really bought in. She and Titania train really well together and could be quite a one-two punch. We’re excited about their potential.”
The Gophers return four sprinters who already rank on Minnesota’s all-time top-10 list in the 4x400m relay in Egwim, Markland, Hobbs, and Schow. Larson, Huls, and Spagnola add depth – and options – to the Gophers’ 4x400m relay team.
“In the 4x400m, if everybody reaches their potential and pushes and stays healthy, then I think they can have a top three Big Ten team and also try to make a push at running super fast,” Bingle said. “It's one of our most talented groups with Brieasha, Rachel, Titania, Emerald, Val - we have a lot of depth there. Not to mention Erin Huls and Emma Spagnola. We have good depth and a couple heavy hitters, which is what you need.”
Check back to GopherSports.com as the Gophers coaching staff previews the indoor 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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