Minnesota performs well at Big Tens

Laura Docherty paced her team to a third-place finish at the Big Ten race.

Minnesota junior Laura Docherty runs at the Jack Johnson Women's Gold - Division I on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, at Les Bolstad Golf Course in St. Paul, Minn.

Daily File Photo, Anthony Kwan

Minnesota junior Laura Docherty runs at the Jack Johnson Women’s Gold – Division I on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, at Les Bolstad Golf Course in St. Paul, Minn.

Betsy Helfand

Before the Big Ten championships, senior Laura Docherty said she wanted to finish in the top 10 and best last year’s result.

Docherty did just that over the weekend, leading the Gophers to a third-place overall finish and placing third individually.

“To go out with my best finish for cross country was really exciting,” she said.

Docherty finished with a time of 21:03.9, narrowly edging out Ohio State’s Michelle Thomas and Michigan State’s Katie Landwehr.

“I could hear people cheering, and I knew there were girls closing in on me quick,” Docherty said. “Pretty much right at the line, they almost passed me, but I was a chest in front of them.”

Gophers head coach Sarah Hopkins called Docherty’s performance “unbelievable.”

“To be top three in this conference — it’s one of the best distance conferences in the country — it’s just phenomenal,” Hopkins said.

Junior Molly Kayfes placed second for the Gophers and eighth overall, and senior Maggie Bollig was 13th overall.

Docherty’s performance earned her first-team All-Big Ten honors, and Kayfes and Bollig were named second team All-Big Ten.

Minnesota had seven finishers in the top 31 spots, good for 68 team points.

“I told them beforehand we could run really, really well and be third, and I think that kind of came to fruition a little bit today,” Hopkins said.

No. 15 Minnesota entered the meet third in the Big Ten behind Michigan State and Michigan, which finished first and second, respectively.

Michigan State, Michigan and Minnesota finished well ahead of the rest of the competition. The next-closest finisher, Penn State, had 143 team points — 75 points behind third place.

“We were closer to first than we were to fourth, so obviously we’re doing something right,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins said the team’s top four runners — Docherty, Kayfes, Bollig and senior Kelli Budd — were close to where she needed them to be, but the team struggled with its fifth spot. She said she believes the team could have finished second if it had made up some of those points.

Men place fourth

The Gophers put a disappointing result at the Oct. 19 Wisconsin Adidas Invitational behind them and earned a fourth-place team finish at the Big Ten championships.

“Coming off a subpar race for almost everybody on the squad down in Madison, a lot of these guys responded well today,” head coach Steve Plasencia said.

Plasencia said the team wanted to be in the top three before the race, but it wound up behind Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, respectively. It was the first time since 1998 that Wisconsin didn’t win the Big Ten championships.

“I think the position that we finished in, if you drew it up on paper — that probably would have been where we were,” Plasencia said.

The Gophers, however, didn’t do it the way Plasencia thought they would.

“We thought [senior John Simons] would be able to get back to form. That didn’t happen yet today,” Plasencia said. “Some of the other guys picked up some slack there.”

Simons finished 88th, and Plasencia said there was a little bit of concern, but it wasn’t the end of the world.

Senior Derek Storkel led the Gophers for the second consecutive meet and finished in 16th place.

Storkel was followed by senior Andrew Larsen and sophomore Adam Zutz, who finished 18th and 25th, respectively.