Weather was just right for a solid and successful race

Overcast skies and a 60-degree temperature were just right for Rombough, Gophers.

by Mark Remme

Saturday’s pre-NCAA meet in Terre Haute, Ind., proved to be filled with the right ingredients for success among individual competitors throughout the day.

With a weather forecast that involved overcast skies, just the right calmness and temperatures hovering around 60 degrees, runners like Minnesota’s Chris Rombough benefited with record performances.

Rombough admitted the forecast, along with the flat terrain, made for a strong showing, while Gophers men’s coach Steve Plasencia added similar sentiments.

“The course was fast and the weather was still,” Plasencia said. “It was relatively fast running.”

While Rombough set Minnesota’s all-time team record for an 8-kilometer race with 23 minutes, 39.7 seconds, others benefited from the meet’s terrain and weather to submit equally impressive outings.

Northern Arizona’s Lopez Lomong broke the course record in the blue race, only for it to be broken again later by Liberty’s Josh McDougal in the white race.

Griak runners dominate

McDougal and Lomong’s performances came on the heels of being the 2006 and 2007 Roy Griak Invitational winners, respectively, but they weren’t the only past Griak champions competing at a high level Saturday.

Virginia’s Emily Harrison, who won the 2007 Griak, took fourth in the women’s white race with a time of 20:04.8. Harrison’s mark was roughly 40 seconds faster than Minnesota’s first finisher Jamie Cheever.

Plasencia said he didn’t think the Griak’s field got enough respect this year because there were other premier cross country events – such as Oregon’s Bill Dellinger Invitation, which Wisconsin went to this year – happening the same weekend.

“One thing I took away this year given the rankings of the teams coming into the Griak,” he said, “is that I don’t think the Griak got a lot of respect from the pollsters.”

Women win Neubauer

While the top runners for the Minnesota women’s cross country team attended and took fourth at the pre-NCAA meet, the remainder of the roster went to Wisconsin-La Crosse’s Tori Neubauer Invitational in West Salem, Wis.

The Gophers used an 11th-place finish by senior Katie Howery to capture the team title with 120 points.

With the win, Minnesota captured its fourth team title of the season. Its previous three were at the Oz Memorial Run, Griak and the South Dakota State Jackrabbit Invite, which were all ran in September.

Minnesota is set to rest its top runners this weekend in preparation for the Big Ten Championships on Oct. 28.

The rest of the roster will run Saturday in Jack’s Run, an event hosted by the Gophers.

Barrett still resting

Matt Barrett did not compete Saturday in Indiana and it is unclear how long the sophomore will miss time.

Plasencia described the injury as upper-leg soreness and did not put a timetable on a return.

He said it’s a difficult situation having to rest a top runner like Barrett at this time of the year because while a coach doesn’t want to aggravate any soreness, Barrett will need to remain active enough to keep endurance high.

Plasencia also said he was tense about not having Barrett in the field during Saturday’s stiff competition.

Barrett finished 32 seconds behind Rombough at the Griak, placing him fourth in the team’s results and acting as a pivotal split between the top runner and the sixth and seventh spot.

“I was a little nervous without Barrett,” he said. “But our guys did a reasonable job.”