Strandemo stands out as leader, top runner after walking on to team

The redshirt senior finished first among Gophers in four of six meets last season.

Redshirt junior Madeline Strandemo runs in the Jack Johnson Women's Gold Race at the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016 at the Les Bolstad golf course.

Chelsea Gortmaker, Daily File Ph

Redshirt junior Madeline Strandemo runs in the Jack Johnson Women’s Gold Race at the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016 at the Les Bolstad golf course.

Anthony Bryant

When Madeline Strandemo first came to Minnesota, she wasn’t sure of everything.

After an All-Conference second team selection and being the only Gophers runner to represent the team at the NCAA Championships, everything has changed four years later.

Strandemo became co-captain of the cross country team for the Gophers this year. She is looking to capitalize off a 51st-place finish in the NCAA Championships last season, as the team heads to the Oz Memorial for its home opener on Sept. 8.

“For [Strandemo], track has always been home,” said head coach Sarah Hopkins. “When the gun goes off, she knows she can run with anyone.”  

What separates Strandemo from the pack she runs against isn’t just confidence — it’s a matter of hard work. Every year that she’s competed in, she’s improved. 

After redshirting her freshman year, she finished 147th overall in the NCAA Championships, 34th in the Midwest Regional and 20th in the Big Ten Championships as a redshirt sophomore. She finished top 10 for both the Midwest Regional and the conference championships.

In 2016, Strandemo ended the season ranked seventh on Minnesota’s all-time top 6K performers’ list with a time of 20:31.5 as a redshirt junior. In that season, Strandemo led the Gophers in top finishes four out of six meets and was named to All-Midwest Region and All-Big Ten Second Teams. The redshirt senior has become a force when competing, but also a leader to those around her. 

“Some people lead by example, and other people are more vocal. Madeline does both,” Hopkins said. “She can relate to the walk-ons and lead through that way. She does things because she’s been there before, but she’s also really good at encouraging her teammates.”

Strandemo isn’t oblivious to these things, and admits she’s completely aware of the changes she’s made, and has been making, over these past years.

“There’s always a change when it’s your last year because there’s more urgency,” Strandemo said. “You want it to be the best year of your career.” 

Strandemo has gone from a walk-on that wasn’t quite sure of her role in all of this, according to Hopkins, to a captain with All-Big Ten honors and newfound confidence. But she’s not done there, and with a new season on the way, this former walk-on has her eyes set on a new target.

“Top 40 is all All-American, so that’s my next goal,” Strandemo said.