Gophers capture third distance relay in two years

Updated: April 29, 2005, 11:28 PM ET
Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Thanks to the crowd, Minnesota's Ryan Ford knew he was in trouble.

So he found an extra burst of speed coming out of the final turn and pulled away from his challengers to give the Gophers a victory in the 6,400-meter relay at the Drake Relays on Friday.

Ford had opened a 25-meter lead after the first lap of his 1,600 leg. But by the time he reached the final 100 meters, Texas Tech's Kevin Chelimo, Notre Dame's Todd Ptacek and Air Force's Mark Walter were closing fast.

"I kind of go by the noise of the fans," Ford said. "At the beginning, it was real quiet. I could hear them cheer for me and I could wait three seconds before I could hear the next guy's cheer.

"Then at the end when the place started going crazy, I was like, oh gosh, I've got to throw it down. Because I know they're coming right up on me."

He had a strong enough kick to beat everyone to the finish and give the Gophers their third relay victory in two years at Drake. They won the distance medley and 3,200 relays last year.

Michigan won the women's distance medley relay and is now two-thirds of the way to second straight sweep of the longer relays. Alabama's Beau Walker set a meet record in winning the women's 400 hurdles for the second straight year, Kansas State led a 1-2-3 Big 12 finish in the men's 3,200 relay and Jamaican Korene Hinds ran the world's second-best time in the women's 3,000 steeplechase after recording the fastest time two weeks ago.

Minnesota's time of 16:42.46 was the second-slowest since the race switched from the four-mile relay to 6,400 in 1978. But the Gophers ran the pace they needed and went ahead to stay on Ben Hanson's second leg. Ryan Malmin led off and Trent Riter ran the third leg.

Texas Tech was second and defending champion Notre Dame took third.

Michigan, the NCAA indoor champion in the women's distance medley, had no trouble winning its second straight Drake title. No. 3 runner Katie Erdman gave Lindsey Gallo a 30-meter lead and the Michigan anchor was able to cruise, running the final 1,600 in 4:45.5.

Gallo anchored a victory in the 6,400 relay on Thursday and will run the final leg for the Wolverines in the 3,200 relay on Saturday. She anchored the Wolverines to all three of their victories last year.

"I'm really excited to get another title," said Gallo, who was third in the NCAA indoor mile this year. "We came here with a goal of wanting to win another three in a row. We've got two down and one to go."

Michigan's medley time of 11:10.80 was more than 3 seconds faster than runner-up Missouri.

Hinds, a former Kansas State athlete, ran the steeplechase in a Drake Stadium record 9:52.04 to easily beat a field of mostly collegiate runners. The only faster time this year in the little-run event was the 9:51.12 Hinds ran at the Mount SAC Relays in California on April 15.

She was disappointed, though, because she thought she could have run faster in both races if she had kicked a little sooner.

"I think if I had gone out with three laps to go, there was a possibility I could take three or four seconds off," Hinds said. "The same thing happened at Mount SAC. With three laps to go, I felt good, but I didn't push myself to the limit. I don't want to make that mistake a third time. Next time, I'll know what to do."

Walker, the outstanding performer in the women's division at Drake last year, repeated her 400 hurdles title in 56.48 seconds. She also ran a leg on the 400 relay team that had the fastest qualifying time for Saturday's final.

Strong legs by Erik Sproll and Christian Smith gave Kansas State a solid victory in the 3,200 relay. Sproll ran his 800 leg in 1:48.2, while Smith ran 1:48.6. The Wildcats finished in 7:21.32 to beat Missouri (7:24.83) and Kansas (7:25.24).

Becky Breisch, the NCAA champion at Nebraska last year, had a throw of 202 feet, 9 inches in the discus. That topped the meet record of 194 that Breisch set last year, but she was competing independently in the university-college event so her mark won't go down as a record.

Andy Stoecken of Division III Loras was a surprise winner in the university-college high jump, clearing 7-1}.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press