Gophers women win Oz Memorial Run

Junior Stephanie Price races in the Oz Memorial Run Friday in Falcon Heights. She went on to win the meet with a time of 21 minutes 16.5 seconds.

Jules Ameel

Junior Stephanie Price races in the Oz Memorial Run Friday in Falcon Heights. She went on to win the meet with a time of 21 minutes 16.5 seconds.

Derek Wetmore

For the second straight weekend, Stephanie Price paced the Gophers womenâÄôs cross country team on their home course, and for the second straight weekend, she finished well ahead of the pack. The difference this weekend? There were other teams competing in this meet. After winning the Gophers womenâÄôs intrasquad meet last weekend, Price led the way in the Oz Memorial Run on Friday with a 21 minute, 16.15 second performance âÄî nearly a full minute ahead of second place. âÄúIt was kind of the same plan as last week,âÄù Price said, âÄúI didnâÄôt know where people would be, [I was] just trying to get ready for Griak with the course.âÄù Minnesota is counting on Price to be the leader of the young team and get comfortable with being a pacer early and often, but Price had five of her teammates join her as top-seven finishers in FridayâÄôs domination at the Les Bolstad course in Falcon Heights. âÄúI always try to feel the pack behind me and race as if thereâÄôs someone right on my shoulder behind me,âÄù Price said. The Oz Memorial is an annual race, and FridayâÄôs event marked the 11th running since Gary Osborn âÄî the former Drake coach for whom the meet is named âÄî passed away. Osborn and womenâÄôs head coach Gary Wilson were good friends, and Wilson, who remains close with the Osborn family, holds the race every year in his late friendâÄôs honor. âÄúI knew Oz since we were 25-year-old coaches,âÄù Wilson said. âÄúHe and I had a lot of the same personality, we were both a little crazy, and he is just a good guy âĦ He was like a brother to me.âÄù OsbornâÄôs widow Marilyn Osborn attends the meet every year with her family, as Wilson pays tribute to his friend. Marilyn recalls the coachesâÄô relationship fondly. âÄúThey were just incredibly close coaching friends,âÄù she said, adding: âÄúI think [the memorial meet] is an incredible honor, I really do.âÄù With the Griak Invitational now just two weeks away, the roster is beginning to take shape, though Wilson said he wonâÄôt make a final decision for a while. Redshirt freshman Missa Varpress finished second, followed by senior Nikki Swenson in fourth, true freshman Ashlie Decker in fifth and Rachel Drake âÄî another redshirt freshman âÄî came in seventh. âÄúNormally we do try to run as a pack,âÄù Varpress said. âÄúWe ended up getting kind of strung out because we went out hard at the beginning. But we all hung in there mentally and we all just kept working tough.âÄù The competition is sure to get much stiffer in two weeks with the Griak Invitational, but the young teamâÄôs handling of the slightly watered-down competition bodes well for confidence and future success. Volz takes third for men Head coach Steve Plasencia deployed only five competitors on the menâÄôs side, but had several unattached runners competing as well. Matt Volz was the highest official Gopher finisher, taking third during light drizzle at FridayâÄôs Oz Memorial. The team took third overall, with Drake finishing first. Drew Paradis was the only other Gophers runner in the top 10, finishing seventh. Steve Sulkin took 14th, Andy Richardson was 30th and Max Hanson rounded out the finishers in 59th. The top runners who competed in BYU last weekend had the meet off, but head coach Steve Plasencia said that is likely the âÄúfirst teamâÄù as it stands currently. Minnesota also ran unattached competitors John Simons (4th place), Marcus Paulson (8th), John Luterbach (9th), Derek Storkel (23rd), Blayne Dulian (31st ), but they did not factor in the scoring since they werenâÄôt technically a part of the team. Storkel remains an interesting case, as the team may opt to redshirt him in his sophomore year, since he expired a year of eligibility late in his true freshman season.