Kayfes paces Gophers to second place

Minnesota qualified for the NCAAs on the women’s side but not the men’s.

Minnesota's Molly Kayfes runs in the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, at Les Bolstad Golf Course.

Ichigo Takikawa, Daily File Photo

Minnesota's Molly Kayfes runs in the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, at Les Bolstad Golf Course.

Betsy Helfand

Gophers head coach Sarah Hopkins went to sleep Friday without worrying whether her team would be competing next weekend.

The Gophers sealed an automatic bid to the NCAA championships Friday with a second-place finish at the NCAA Midwest regional.

“I think we’re all very excited,” redshirt senior Maggie Bollig said. “We’re all really looking forward to next weekend and making another appearance at the NCAAs.”

While the Gophers would have likely sealed an at-large bid had they not finished first or second, Hopkins said it was nice not having to worry about it.

“I’m definitely breathing a little easier now,” Hopkins said.

She called the Midwest Regionals weekend the most “nerve-wracking” of the season but said the Gophers had a safety net based on good performances earlier in the season.

Molly Kayfes led the Gophers with a second-place individual finish, and Hopkins said she ran “about the most perfect race.”

Hopkins said the redshirt junior was in a pack with about six people heading into the last kilometer of the race and could have finished anywhere from second to seventh.

“She was just the last one to kick, and I think everybody else was pressing, and she was just calm and relaxed,” Hopkins said.

Kayfes said Hopkins talked to the whole team about staying patient, which is what Kayfes said she was trying to do in the race.

“I think the last 300 to 400 [meters] I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to go, and once I go, I’m not letting anyone pass me,’” Kayfes said. “That’s kind of what I did, and it ended up going well.”

Kayfes finished the race with a career-best time of 20:20.9.

Bollig and redshirt senior Laura Docherty finished eighth and ninth, respectively.

Minnesota placed five runners in the top 25 finishers.

Along with Kayfes, Bollig and Docherty, redshirt sophomore Becca Dyson and senior Katie Moraczewski finished in the top 25 and were awarded all-region honors.

“I thought on a great day, we could have put seven in the top 25, but five is an awesome number,” Hopkins said.

Bollig said the team is still waiting for a race in which all the runners are “really on.”

“We’re still kind of waiting for everybody to come together on the same day,” Bollig said. “I think we’re all really excited that we have another shot at NCAAs to try to make that happen.”

Men miss NCAA championships

The men’s team concluded its season Friday with a tie for fifth place at the NCAA Midwest regional.

The Gophers did not receive an at-large bid to the NCAA championships, and head coach Steve Plasencia said it came down to a matter of just a few points.

“They competed very well,” Plasencia said of his team. “They were just a little bit short.”

He said the team knew it was going to take a “very, very good effort” to make the national meet.

The Gophers were led Friday by their three senior captains.

Andrew Larsen (18th) and Derek Storkel (23rd) finished first and second for the Gophers and made the all-region team.

John Simons finished 31st after finishing 257th at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational and 88th at the Big Ten championships.

“It takes a lot of fortitude because it’s pretty hard to come back from a couple of rough blows like he took in the last two [meets],” Plasencia said.