Gophers take one last tune-up before Big Ten meet

This is Minnesota’s first time competing at the Adidas Invitational.

Minnesota senior Hassan Mead competes Saturday in the 26th Annual Roy Griak Invitational on the St. Paul Campus.

Moira DuCharme, Daily File Photo

Minnesota senior Hassan Mead competes Saturday in the 26th Annual Roy Griak Invitational on the St. Paul Campus.

by Dane Mizutani

The No. 17 Minnesota menâÄôs cross country team will travel to Madison, Wis., on Friday and run in its first competition since the Roy Griak Invitational.

The Gophers placed third at the Griak nearly three weeks ago.

They are in the midst of a three-week training period in which runners have recorded upward of 90-mile weeks, according to menâÄôs head coach Steve Plasencia.

However, amid the training Plasencia said one of the most important things at this point in the season is keeping his athletes fresh.

âÄúWe want to work hard during that off period of time, but when you put three weeks of time together, thatâÄôs quite a bit of time to work,âÄù Plasencia said. âÄúWe plan a couple rest days in the middle of that period of time, but the rest of the time the guys are going pretty hard.âÄù

He added, âÄúNow weâÄôre just hoping we see some good results off of that.âÄù

That wonâÄôt be an easy task.

There are 39 teams running at the Adidas Invitational, including top-10 teams Wisconsin (No. 2), Stanford (No. 4), BYU (No. 6), Indiana (No. 7), North Carolina State (No.9), and Oregon (No. 10).

Minnesota will also get a glimpse at what to expect at the Big Ten championships in two weeks. Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Nebraska, Purdue and the host Badgers will all run in the field.

âÄúIt should be a tough race,âÄù Plasencia said. âÄúWe want to beat some teams of significance to solidify our NCAA at-large point situation.âÄù

âÄúItâÄôs kind of tough because itâÄôs not even the championship part of the season yet, yet you have a meet that can determine a lot of what happens later on,âÄù he said.

In years prior, Minnesota raced at the Pre-NCAA Championships meet, but the timing didnâÄôt match up well with PlasenciaâÄôs training regimen.

He strives to have runners peaking at the end of the season, not the middle, so midseason meets of such magnitude have sometimes proved problematic.

Hassan Mead and Pieter Gagnon will headline the seven runners for the Gophers running in the championship race in Wisconsin.

Four of the 11 Minnesota runners will run in a secondary, unattached race of the Adidas Invitational.

A handful of runners will also run at the Jim Drews Invite on Saturday in Lacrosse, Wis.

Blayne Dulian, Derek Storkel, Drew Paradis, Kevin Lachowitzer and some of the freshmen that the team plans to redshirt will run in Lacrosse, according to Plasencia.

Women also to compete in Wisconsin

The No. 21 Minnesota womenâÄôs cross country team will also compete Friday in Madison, Wis.

Although the Gophers have a home meet next weekend, the Adidas Invitational will serve as a final tune-up before the Big Ten Championships in two weeks and will also provide an opportunity to gain points for the NCAA Championships.

âÄúWe want to have a great race obviously because we want to beat teams to get points for the national meet,âÄù womenâÄôs head coach Gary Wilson said.

Finishing ahead of NCAA-qualifying teams can help garner points that go toward at-large bids to the championships at the end of the year.

Wilson said there are still three spots up for grabs on the roster of nine that the team will take to the Big Ten Championships in Champaign, Ill.

 Wilson said he hopes to have a clear idea of his Big Ten roster by the end of this weekend.

 âÄúThe worst thing we can do is have a run-off next weekend at the [JackâÄôs Run],âÄù he added.

Minnesota will be among 42 other teams in this weekendâÄôs meet.

This immense competition at the Adidas Invitational includes both No. 1 Villanova and No. 2 Providence.

âÄúFinishing in the top-10 would be a very good accomplishment,âÄù Wilson said. âÄúWe might be able to do a little bit better than that, but itâÄôs a hell of a field.âÄù

Although Wilson has stressed starting in the back and moving up gradually throughout the race this season, he said this meet will provide his runners with a different test.

âÄú[The course] goes out pretty fast and it stays fast and you have to put yourself in a good position,âÄù Wilson said. âÄúThatâÄôs going to be the biggest key for this race, because where you are at halfway through the race is pretty much where youâÄôre going to finish.âÄù

âÄúIt teaches that youâÄôve got to be smart, but you also canâÄôt sit back âĦ because thereâÄôs not enough hills to bring people back to you,âÄù he said. âÄúThey have to run cautiously aggressive is the best way to put it.âÄù

Fourteen Gophers runners will travel to Wisconsin, with the rest of the team competing at the Tori Neubauer Invitational on Saturday in Lacrosse, Wis.