LINCOLN — Nebraska track and field coach Gary Pepin doesn’t employ too much hyperbole when praising his teams. He’s won too many conference titles — 68 — to peddle false advertising.
So it’s notable when he singles out the Husker men’s squad as “one of the best we’ve had in a long time.”
Now: Can that bunch make good on Pepin’s assessment by winning the Big Ten indoor title this weekend at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio?
“I’d really like to,” Pepin said
After narrowly losing in Lincoln last year — and watching conference champ Indiana take several boisterous victory laps around the Devaney Center track — the Huskers would, too. High jumper James White, who just joined the team this year, said NU captains haven’t forgotten that defeat.
“Losing last year, I think that really got us riled up,” said White, who has a chance to win the high jump crown.
Pepin expects the Huskers to compete well in the sprints, shot put, pole vault and heptahlon. Nebraska has a chance to dominate the long and triple jump competitions, where Janis Leitis and Patrick Raedler are No. 1 and No. 2 in the Big Ten in both events. Penn State, Minnesota and Wisconsin — which won the 2012 Big Ten outdoor title — are the Huskers’ main competitors. It’ll take well over 100 points, Pepin said, to win the title.
On the women’s side, Nebraska’s young team is hoping for a top four finish, Pepin said. NU, which won the Big Ten indoor title last year, lost distance runner Ashley Miller to graduation and some of its better returning runners to injuries earlier this year, the coach said. Only long/triple jumper Mara Griva is favored to win any of the competitions. Illinois, Michigan and Penn State are favorites on the women’s side, Pepin said.
The meet starts at 10 a.m Friday and continues through Saturday evening.
The SPIRE Institute is a massive, multi-sport training facility that includes an indoor track facility. Pepin expects it’ll be used by the U.S. Olympic team. The only complication, Pepin said: Nebraska’s hotel accommodations are 40 miles away from the facility.
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