Dyson, Minnesota take SDSU Classic

Redshirt junior Becca Dyson placed first overall in the meet on Saturday.

Betsy Helfand

The Gophers have historically run away from the competition at the SDSU Classic — literally.

It wasn’t easy on Saturday, but Minnesota still came out with another team victory.

The Gophers headed into the meet planning on asserting themselves early, and they did.

But this time, they weren’t alone.

“I think in years past, other teams and other individuals just kind of go, ‘Oh, we’re going to let them go and we’ll race for sixth or seventh or eighth,’ and they decided not to do that today, which I think is great,” head coach Sarah Hopkins said. “And it definitely helped them, and it helped us.”

Two runners from South Dakota got out particularly hard, causing Minnesota to adapt its strategy mid-race.

“When we had two [kilometers] to go, I think we kind of decided we weren’t going to let a couple kids from South Dakota beat us, so we ended up making a move,” Hopkins said.

Redshirt junior Becca Dyson, who finished first in the race, went first, with teammates Kaila Urick and Liz Berkholtz following her lead.

Berkholtz said she heard Hopkins yelling to them.

“Hop definitely yelled, ‘Hey, it’s time to be assertive,’ to all three of us. Me and Kaila were ahead of Becca for the whole beginning of the race, and then Becca was the one who decided to take off,” Berkholtz said.

Berkholtz said the team was going at one pace but took off for a minute and a half to take the lead before settling down.

“We had to get away from them a little bit,” she said.

Dyson put on a big surge to take the lead.

“[Urick and Berkholtz] saw that I was going, and they were able to re-gear and get moving, too,” Dyson said.

Hopkins said she thought the trio did a good job of adjusting its race plan on the fly.

“They kind of realized after about two [kilometers] that those guys weren’t going to go anywhere and they had to be assertive,” Hopkins said. “It wasn’t like, ‘Oh, well, they’re going to fade pretty soon.’ It was, ‘Oh, they’re not fading, and we have to do our job to try to get up and press the issue a little bit.’”

For a race the Gophers typically dominate, Berkholtz said it was nice to be able to have another team to key off of.

“I think it actually took the pressure off,” Berkholtz said. “Usually we come to this meet and Minnesota goes 1 to 12 and we have to push each other to make the race move.”

The meet offered the Gophers’ top trio a chance to work with each other, and Saturday was particularly key for Dyson after a 112th-place finish at the Roy Griak Invitational.

“It was really important for me to come out and make sure I got everything back in check,” Dyson said.

The Gophers also sent a group of runners to the UW-Eau Claire Blugold Invite, and they came away tied for second place.

Hopkins said she was happy with the team’s performance at the meet.

Freshman Emily Castanias, who ran unattached, finished second overall in Wisconsin.

“It’s fun to watch those guys really be aggressive and stick their nose in there and not take a back seat to anybody, even as freshmen,” Hopkins said.