Women take fourth place at Griak

Both teams fared worse than they would have liked over the weekend.

Minnesota senior John Simons outruns Brigham Young University's Jason Witt at the finish of the men's Division I Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday at Les Bolstad Golf Course. Simons finished in 6th place.

Ichigo Takikawa

Minnesota senior John Simons outruns Brigham Young University's Jason Witt at the finish of the men's Division I Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday at Les Bolstad Golf Course. Simons finished in 6th place.

Betsy Helfand

The Gophers didn’t finish quite where they wanted to at Saturday’s 28th Annual Roy Griak Invitational, but head coach Sarah Hopkins said she thought her team still ran well.

“I think we can run better, but overall I was pretty pleased,” she said. “I wish we beat a few more teams, but that’s any race you wish that.”

The No. 19 Gophers placed fourth out of 28 teams in the Griak, and five runners finished in the top 31.

“If you had said we’d have five in the top 31,” Hopkins said, “I would’ve been really pleased walking into it.”

Senior Laura Docherty finished 11th overall with a time of 21:11.

Senior Katie Moraczewski finished 10 seconds behind Docherty and was the second finisher on the team. She placed 15th overall.

Moraczewski finished sixth at the Intrasquad Meet on Aug. 30 and sixth at the Oz Memorial on Sept. 6. She stepped up at the Griak and shaved more than a minute off her Oz Memorial time.

“I think she probably had the race of the day in terms of improvement,” Hopkins said. “[She was] probably the performer of the meet for us in terms of being really clutch and running smart.”

Moraczewski credited her performance to her focus and said she was “really geared up” for her last race at the Griak.

But Hopkins said the team had some tactical errors which contributed to the fourth-place finish.

In the Griak, she said, she thought the team got excited a little early.

“We were in a really great spot at 1K, and then we moved really hard from 1K to 2K, which was probably too aggressive at that point,” Hopkins said.

Junior Molly Kayfes, usually the team’s first or second finisher, was the Gophers’ fourth finisher.

Hopkins said Kayfes was near the front of the pack through the two-kilometer mark but fell off by the end of the race.

“She’s frustrated with herself that she … didn’t hold back a little bit at that point,” Hopkins said.

Kayfes still managed to finish 24th overall, which Hopkins said was a testament to her toughness.

“A lot of kids would have never been able to hang on that well,” she said.

Docherty said the team was too aggressive too early in the meet and it’s important it doesn’t make those same tactical errors in the future.

“We’re definitely still learning from it,” Docherty said, “and I think we’ll be ready to go come the [Wisconsin Adidas Invite] and Big Tens.”

Men finish eighth

The Gophers men’s team had issues from the start at the Griak.

Minnesota, which finished first as a team at the Griak last year, placed eighth over the weekend.

Minnesota head coach Steve Plasencia said senior Andrew Larsen, who finished 10th overall at the Griak last year, tripped at the starting line and got stepped on a couple of times.

Plasencia also said senior Steve Sulkin lost his shoe at the beginning of the race.

“Those things don’t show up in the result packets, but they kind of tell how the race actually turned out for our team,” senior John Simons said. “That’s kind of why we finished as far back as a group as we did.”

Simons said Wednesday that a top-five finish would be a “pretty big accomplishment.”

The Gophers were only 12 points behind sixth-place finisher Michigan State but were 79 points off of fifth-place Oklahoma.

“If we make up those points, I’d probably go, ‘OK, we’re all right,’” Plasencia said, “but we don’t like to finish eighth at our home meet.”

Individually, Simons finished sixth overall.

Simons was running neck-and-neck with Brigham Young’s Jason Witt but edged him out in the final stretch by 0.2 seconds.

“I was going to be pretty disappointed with the overall race if I had gotten outkicked there,” Simons said. “I think I kind of guilted myself into kicking harder.”

Plasencia said Simons didn’t listen to him, and it turned out for the best.

“On our course, sometimes guys have gotten out a little hard, so we talked about going out a little bit conservatively,” Plasencia said. “Well, John didn’t listen to that. He didn’t listen to the coach, and he probably did a good job because of that.”

On Wednesday, Simons said he was hoping to lead the Gophers and wanted to finish in the top five individually. He narrowly missed that goal.

“It was really nice to see that all the hard work is paying off and that I’m in the right spot that I need to be in,” Simons said.

The Gophers have another 8K on Friday at the Notre Dame Invitational.

“We’ve got to come back together,” Plasencia said. “It’s not long before they get a chance to get the taste of this one out of their mouth and get another
competition.”