Minnesota hardly a gracious host in dominating Oz Memorial Run

David McCoy

The flag was at half-staff in remembrance of Sept. 11, 2001, but Minnesota’s women’s cross country team was at full power.

The Gophers cruised to an easy victory Saturday in the Oz Memorial Run at Les Bolstad Cross Country Course.

Comparing the opening meet to a tune-up for a NASCAR race, coach Gary Wilson said this race was all about starting the season on a good note.

“This is kind of like the time trials at the Indy 500. You put the cars out there and run ’em and see, and then you make those adjustments as you go,” he said.

Minnesota’s runners took nine of the top 10 finishes, and 15 of the top 17, winning the meet with just 19 points.

Drake placed second with 50 points, followed by Division III Bethel and Division II Minnesota State-Mankato.

Leading the charge for the Gophers was junior Lauren Williams, who topped the field of 81 runners with a time of 22:48.7.

It was her first collegiate victory.

“I felt like it was a really smooth race,” Williams said. “Zoe (Nagell) and I worked together the whole time. Neither she nor I are trying to be a superstar up there. We’re just trying to help each other.”

Nagell finished third, followed by Minnesota juniors Harper McConnell and Jen Hess.

Nagell said she’s very pleased with the team’s performance.

“For this being our first time out this season, we totally accomplished the objective,” she said.

But Nagell also warned against getting too confident.

“It’s a little different because you have to remember that these (teams, except for Drake) are lower division schools.

This is all about getting prepared for the end of the year,” she said.

Spoiling the Gophers’ stranglehold on the top 10 was Drake sophomore Ashley Anklam, who finished second.

Minnesota sophomore Emily Brown, still recovering from her second foot surgery, was not able to finish the race.

“I went until a little bit after the 4K, but I just didn’t feel comfortable on the ground anymore,” she said. “I just don’t want to push it in the earlier meets.”

The Gophers got a big boost from two freshmen, Ladia Albertson-Junkans and Katie Howery. They finished sixth and eighth, respectively, for Minnesota.

Wilson was impressed with his first-year runners.

“A lot of these freshmen, they’ve never run a 6K before. When we got to the 3K hill, they were kind of like, ‘Oh boy, we’ve still got halfway to go.’ But they really responded and ran well,” Wilson said. “They were tough – very tough.”

Men second in Utah

Minnesota’s men’s cross country team took second place at the Brigham Young University Autumn Classic in Orem, Utah, on Saturday.

Brigham Young took first place. The Cougars’ 28 points edged the Gophers’ score of 39.

All-American Andrew Carlson led the Gophers with a second- place finish, eight seconds behind the Cougars’ Josh Rohatinshy.

Coach Steve Plasencia said he was pleased with the outcome.

“Well, the altitude makes it tougher, but they did a nice job,” he said.

Carlson said he experienced some chest problems, but he was satisfied with the second-place showing.

“It wasn’t my best,” he said, “but I lost to a good guy.”