Redshirt juniors lead Gophers

Minnesota’s redshirt junior class claimed the first four spots in the Intrasquad 5K.

Minnesota's Becca Dyson runs the final stretch of the Intrasquad 5K on Friday at Les Bolstad Golf Course.

Alex Tuthill-Preus

Minnesota’s Becca Dyson runs the final stretch of the Intrasquad 5K on Friday at Les Bolstad Golf Course.

Aidan Coleman

Despite the weather threatening to cancel the Gophers’ first race of the 2014 season, the team managed to outlast the rain and unofficially begin their season.

Heavy rain earlier in the day made for slick conditions at Les Bolstad Golf Course on Friday for Minnesota’s Intrasquad 5K, but that didn’t stop redshirt juniors Liz Berkholtz and Becca Dyson from finishing first and second in the meet, picking up right where they left off last year.

“[The conditions] took a lot of pressure off. We didn’t have to worry about [our] time.” Berkholtz said, adding that the team has experienced worse conditions in the past.

Head coach Sarah Hopkins said even though the course was sloppy, the rough conditions helped the runners see where the team is at this season.

“Once you get into a situation where they’ve got to push through some hard parts, they’ve got to start competing … then you [start to] see who’s mentally and physically putting the pieces together,” Hopkins said.

Minnesota’s redshirt junior class showed that it is ready to lead the team. The group took the top four spots in the 5K.

Berkholtz, Dyson and fellow redshirt junior Kaila Urick all finished with times below 19 minutes. Kate Bucknam, also a redshirt junior, clocked in at 19:00.84. Redshirt sophomore Jamie Piepenburg, who finished with a time of 19:05.23, rounded out the top five.

“It’s really nice to get our first one done … after our challenging preseason camp,” Dyson said. “We worked really hard up there, so we were really excited just to get back.”

One of the surprise stories of the day was Bucknam and her top-five performance.

Hopkins said Bucknam took a big jump Friday by placing herself among the top runners.

“I don’t know if she’s ever been in our top seven in a meet,” Hopkins said. “To be No. 4 was awesome.”

With such a strong group of juniors, the future looks bright for Minnesota, which lost several key runners to graduation.

Hopkins said with the season officially starting at the Oz Memorial this weekend, the runners will be pushed even further.

“There’s people to race against that aren’t teammates,” Hopkins said. “That gives you a little extra oomph once you’re trying to fight for keeping schools behind you.”