Golden Gophers Road Trip Makes a Stop in Owatonna
The message on Wednesday about the Gophers' athletic program focused on the success of the student-athletes on the field and in the classroom.
The annual tour of the state takes the University of Minnesota sports staff and coaches to the corners of the state to thank fans and share an update on the athletic program. During Wednesday's visit in Owatonna, they spoke of the recent success for the Gophers to a sea of maroon and gold-wearing fans in attendance at the Owatonna Country Club.
The voice of Golden Gopher radio, Mike Grimm, recapped the current school year's six Big Ten Conference titles and high standing in the Learfield Sports Athletic Cup, which ranks all the college programs across the country on athletic success. Grimm said it could be the greatest athletic season ever for the U of M. He also said the institution is among the highest ranked academically.
New Athletics Director Mark Coyle said he started his job as early as he did so he could get to talk to university supporters around the state. The university is dealing with some negative stories in the news surrounding the wrestling and men's basketball programs.
Football coach Tracy Claeys spoke of how well Owatonna graduate Andrew Stelter has developed as a Big Ten defensive lineman. Claeys said it was unfortunate that Stelter didn't get to red shirt his freshman year due to injuries on the defensive line. Claeys was happy the Gophers were invited to a bowl game, which they won, while acknowledging that getting to a bigger-name bowl game and making it the conference championship game remain his goals.
Gopher women's basketball coach Marlene Stollings lauded NRHEG graduate Carlie Wagner, who will be looked upon this coming season to be even more of a team leader after the graduation of Rachel Banham.
A men's golf coach couldn't make the trip to Owatonna, but Grimm spoke of OHS grad Peter Jones, who plays golf for the Gophers. His high school coach, Keith Bangs, was on hand.
Other coaches in attendance included Don Lucia (men's hockey), Jessica Allister (softball), Mike Burns (men's gymnastics), Wendy Davis (rowing), Jenny Hansen (women's gymnastics) and Andy Stoots (women's soccer).