Cheever at helm of twice-perfect Minnesota squad

The Gophers have two big wins but have sights set on a bigger prize.

Mark Remme

Scanning the Minnesota women’s cross country team’s finishes over the past two weeks, a glaring trend hopped off the page in an unavoidable way.

Two regular-season meets involving the Gophers’ top 12 runners. Two wins with perfect 15 scores. Two wins by sophomore Jamie Cheever.

See any congruencies?

The back-to-back victories at the Oz Memorial Classic and the South Dakota State Jackrabbit Invite marked the first consecutive wins for eighth-ranked Minnesota since doing so Sept. 30 and Oct. 7 of last year.

The consecutive perfect scores is the first time in the NCAA era (1983-84) that the Gophers have accomplished that feat.

Gophers coach Gary Wilson said that while he was pleased with the unusually favorable results, the outcome still doesn’t weigh a whole lot on his mind, considering the talented teams Minnesota has yet to play on the schedule.

Weak competition aside, Minnesota’s current squad successfully put itself in elite company compared to Gophers teams of the past.

The results are especially sweet for Cheever, who in her sophomore year is exceeding already-lofty expectations while setting the pace for Minnesota in each of the first two meets.

Cheever is the first in a 20-year span to accomplish such a feat. The last was Eileen Donaghy in 1987.

The Minneapolis Southwest graduate earned last year’s team rookie-of-the-year award as a redshirt freshman.

Since, she’s kept pace with a team fully experienced in competitive meets. All things considered, Cheever’s most impressive feat might be holding off her strong-willed teammates in two consecutive races – three if the exhibition intrasquad meet is thrown into the equation.

Running notes

Minnesota will get its first weekend off this week since starting the 2007 campaign Sept. 1.

The Gophers will have a chance to rest after two dominating performances against weaker opponents. Next Saturday, however, the first true test for Minnesota will be right in the team’s own backyard.

That’s because on Sept. 29 the Gophers will host the Roy Griak Invitational at Les Bolstad Golf Course. It is the much-anticipated event in Wilson’s eyes as he’s stated on numerous occasions that the Griak is where the true competition of the season begins.

Heading into last weekend, it was those sentiments that Wilson emphasized.

“We have enough talent on our team to push each other,” Wilson said before heading to the Jackrabbit Invite. “But there’s nothing like getting into a Griak situation.”

• In an interesting geographic irony, Wilson pointed out that four of the Gophers’ top five runners are originally from within 23 miles of the University.

The four are: Cheever (Minneapolis), senior Ladia Albertson-Junkans (Stillwater), and sophomores Elizabeth Yetzer (Lakeville) and Heather Dorniden (Inver Grove Heights).

• Like the women, the Minnesota men’s cross country team will not compete this weekend. It will be the Gophers’ second consecutive week off.

• Minnesota has not competed since winning the BYU Autumn Classic two weeks ago in Provo, Utah.

The Gophers will compete again at the Roy Griak Invitational Sept. 29 in Falcon Heights.