LINCOLN — It was about 15 minutes before the race when NU coaches told Christian Sanderfer that he’d be running on Nebraska’s top 4x400-meter relay team.
So there wasn’t much time for any teammate to offer any advice to the redshirt freshman out of Lincoln Southwest, who was supposed to be in the Huskers’ B relay group after finishing third in the pole vault a day earlier at the Frank Sevigne Invitational.
Sanderfer ran his first 400 in a gorilla mask at a Halloween-themed team event three months ago. And now he’d be running against a Florida foursome that posted the nation’s fastest time its last time out.
“I like to chase, so this was the perfect opportunity,” Sanderfer said with a smile. “I took the challenge, got some adrenaline flowing and did the best I could.”
He helped the Huskers win the relay in 3:09.31 Saturday afternoon at the Devaney Center indoor track, the best time in the Big Ten and the seventh fastest nationally. Florida held a slim lead heading into the final two laps on the 200-meter track, but the Gators’ anchor man, Arman Hall, pulled up limping and collapsed as he approached the second turn.
But the apparent leg injury (Hall eventually walked away on his own power) didn’t spoil the moment for NU and Sanderfer.
“We really needed that,” coach Gary Pepin said. “We knew that we had a lot better team in the 4x4 than we’ve shown this year.”
It was a thrilling end to a competitive two-day event, Pepin said. He said the weekend was “one of the best meets we’ve had here in probably 15, 20 years.”
Florida, the 2012 men’s indoor and outdoor national champion, was one of 25 Division I teams on hand. Auburn, Baylor and Central Florida were represented as well.
The loudest roar from the crowd arguably came for an athlete who wasn’t competing for any school, though.
Former Husker Dusty Jonas, an NCAA champion high jumper, set a Devaney Center record and the world-leading mark for this year when he cleared 7 feet, 8 inches.
“A real good meet for Nebraska,” Pepin said.
>> NU senior Jessica Furlan won the mile run by eight seconds. But she wanted the school record (4:38.22) — which might have been why she couldn’t make her way up to the medal stand because she was so exhausted afterward. “At 200 (meters left), I got around that curve, and my legs (couldn’t move),” she said. Her time, 4:47.63, is 11th best in the Big Ten.
>> NU senior Janis Leitis competed in the triple jump for the first time in his career Saturday. He finished second, leaping 52-10¾. “He practiced that about one day,” Pepin said. Iowa Western’s Latario Collie-Minns won with a jump of 53-11¼.
>> Florida’s Dedric Dukes, named the weekend’s most outstanding male athlete, set a meet record by finishing the 200 meters in 20.95 seconds. Husker junior Dexter McKenzie was second with a personal-best 21.00-second sprint.
>> NU senior Tommy Brinn won the 600-meter run in 1:17.95, and freshman Nolan Border took first in the 800 with a time of 1:55.22. Tanner Fruit, from the University of Nebraska at Kearney, finished the 3,000-meter race in 8:20.70 to take first.
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