Decker dominates in season’s first meet

Both the men’s and women’s teams finished second at the Oz Memorial.

Senior Ashlie Decker leads the pack Friday evening at the  Oz Memorial at Les Bolstad Golf Course in St. Paul. Decker won the women's race.

Zach Bielinski

Senior Ashlie Decker leads the pack Friday evening at the Oz Memorial at Les Bolstad Golf Course in St. Paul. Decker won the women’s race.

Aidan Coleman

First-meet nerves didn’t seem to be a factor for redshirt senior Ashlie Decker, who dominated the Oz Memorial in her first official race since redshirting last season due to injury.

Decker was in the front for nearly the whole race as she cruised past the competition and finished first in the 6-kilometer race with a time of 22 minutes, 26.2 seconds.

“I made sure I was pushing the first half and then held on the second half,” she said.

Decker finished more than 10 seconds faster than Drake’s Emma Huston.

However, her strong performance wasn’t enough to secure an Oz Memorial victory for the team as a whole. Northern Iowa edged out Minnesota for first place at the meet.

South Dakota State, Drake and Minnesota State followed the second-place Gophers.

“It was fun; it was really fun,” head coach Sarah Hopkins said of Decker’s performance. “She’s a really important piece of our puzzle.”

Redshirt junior Megan Bailey also had a strong performance, placing 10th overall and finishing third for the Gophers.

Hopkins said Bailey had a “freaking phenomenal race.”

“It felt great,” Bailey said. “The first [race] is always the hardest.”

The Gophers placed three runners in the top 10: Decker, Bailey and redshirt freshman Madeline Strandemo, who placed ninth.

“Overall, I thought they fought really well,” Hopkins said. “It’s the first week of school, [and] they’re getting back into things.”

The Gophers sat many of their top performers, including Becca Dyson, Liz Berkholtz and Kaila Urick, to rest them for the upcoming BYU Autumn Classic on Sept. 13.

“We have some really big races coming up,” Decker said. “A lot of good teams [are] coming up.”

Zutz leads men to second place

Minnesota finished second in the Oz Memorial to Drake by five points.

“I wasn’t upset with our performance,” head coach Steve Plasencia said. “Our first guys got out a bit too hard.”

Junior Adam Zutz placed second behind Drake’s Brogan Austin.

“It’s fun to get out there and compete,” Zutz said.

Like the women’s team, the men’s team placed three runners inside the top 10: Zutz, junior Alex Brend and redshirt sophomore Riley Macon.

Minnesota finished ahead of Northern Iowa and South Dakota State.