LINCOLN — Gary Pepin said his Nebraska men’s track and field team knows it maybe let one get away back in February.
The Huskers felt as if they had a good chance of winning the Big Ten Indoor meet in Geneva, Ohio, but left with a fourth-place finish and a “what-if” feeling as just four points separated the top five teams.
“We felt like the opportunity was there to win the indoor championship, that we had enough talented athletes, and then we didn’t get it done,” Pepin said. “We had some kids have some problems in the meet and they didn’t compete up to their standards or our standards.
“After that meet it was kind of an awakening for them that, ‘Hey, we had a really good chance here and we let that chance go by.’”
Nebraska falling short is significant because it further delayed the Huskers’ pursuit of their first Big Ten championship in any men’s sport. NU moved from the Big 12 to the Big Ten before the 2011-12 school year.
That same team, however, gets another shot this weekend with the Big Ten Outdoor meet in Columbus, Ohio.
NU will have one of the five Top 25 men’s teams at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium, checking in at No. 13. Wisconsin is the highest of the ranked men’s teams at No. 10 and won the Big Ten Indoor title.
Pepin feels good about the Husker men despite some injuries and choppy spring weather that disrupted training. He said NU has had only a handful of outdoor practices under ideal conditions this spring.
“But I just think the kids have done the best they can do with it and worked real hard,” he said. “We try to do the best we can under those circumstances. I’m real surprised that the kids haven’t complained much at all about it.”
Pepin said the Nebraska women’s team “exceeded expectations” as runner-up at the Big Ten Indoor meet, finishing three points behind Illinois. The Husker women won the Big Ten Indoor in 2012.
NU will look to get men’s points from junior Chad Wright in the discus and shot put. Wright threw the discus 207 feet, 11 inches two weeks ago at the Triton Invitational, becoming the all-time leader in the Big Ten and No. 2 on the Huskers’ all-time chart.
The NU men’s 4x400 relay team ran a season-best 3:03.79 at the Drake Relays, which is fourth in the nation this season and first in the Big Ten. That unit includes true freshmen Levi Gipson and Cody Rush, and Janis Leitis off that foursome also figures to be a factor in the long jump.
Pepin said Nebraska is still trying to get a feel for the Big Ten on its second time through the league. The Huskers haven’t seen many of their conference opponents this spring, other than at Drake, so Pepin is going off what happened during the indoor season and what’s happened on the rankings list.
“It’s certainly different than the old Big 12 Conference, because those were people that not only did we see them more frequently but you also kind of had a history or past of how they entered their people over the previous number of years,” he said.
Pepin, however, said the Big Ten is deeper than the Big 12 and that the Huskers’ former conference has fallen off with the departure of schools to the Big Ten, SEC and Pac-12.
“At the top end, there are some really good performers still, and national-level people, but where it’s really weakened is when you start going down for sixth or seventh or eighth place,” Pepin said. “In the Big Ten Conference, there really aren’t any weaknesses.”
The Nebraska women’s chances will be helped by Mara Griva, who will try to add to her Big Ten Indoor titles in both the long jump and triple jump. Griva currently ranks first in the Big Ten and third nationally in the triple jump at 44-3Ĺ.
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