Men third, women fifth at the Griak

Hassan Mead finished third overall.

Senior Hassan Mead approaches the finish line Saturday during the 26th Annual Roy Griak Invitational on the St. Paul Campus.

Senior Hassan Mead approaches the finish line Saturday during the 26th Annual Roy Griak Invitational on the St. Paul Campus.

by Dane Mizutani

All-American Hassan Mead made his return to the Roy Griak Invitational this weekend, finishing 10 seconds off the meet record of 23 minutes, 39 seconds.

Unfortunately for Mead, Arizona freshman Lawi Lalang ran in the same race.

Mead was looking to recapture the title he never officially lost after winning the race in 2009 and sitting idle due to injury last year.

Lalang jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, shattering the meet record with a time of 23 minutes, 16 seconds.

âÄúI was with him until we hit about the [2,000-meter] mark,âÄù Mead said. âÄúEvery stride he took was like three feet longer than mine and that gap kind of kept adding up,âÄù Mead said.

âÄúI was expecting him to do something like that, but I didnâÄôt expect him to [break the meet record].âÄù

Mead finished third overall with a time of 23 minutes, 49 seconds.

âÄúCertainly at home Hassan wanted to give it a good shot, so he went with [Lalang],âÄù menâÄôs head coach Steve Plasencia said of Mead chasing the front-runner. âÄúWeâÄôre really happy with Hassan and it looks like heâÄôs back in good form.âÄù

Mead said he felt good on the course and was satisfied with his overall performance.

âÄúIn terms of the time I ran, today it was good,âÄù he said. âÄúI came in here with excitement and right now IâÄôm excited looking forward for the rest of the season.âÄù

Aside from the All-American Mead, the rest of the team did its part to secure a third-place team finish for Minnesota.

Pieter Gagnon finished 19th and three other Minnesota runners finished in the top 60 at the Griak. This was good for an overall team score of 153.

The Gophers finished behind North Carolina State and Portland.

âÄúIâÄôm happy with the way it went,âÄù Plasencia said. âÄúSome of us got out a little bit too hard and some of them dropped back late in the race, but there were some really good efforts.

âÄúEven some of those guys that went out hard [early], regained their composure and got up again toward the end.âÄù

Plasencia said although the team accomplished the goal to be a trophy team at the Griak, there are still things they took away from the meet.

âÄúWe need to continue to work, but I feel weâÄôre in a good place for this time in the season,âÄù he said. âÄúWe got some depth which we havenâÄôt had every year. I think this is a little bit of a fun team and thereâÄôs a good feeling and optimism among the guys about what we can do.âÄù

PlasenciaâÄôs training regimen has historically aimed to have runners peaking around the time of the Big Ten championships.

Price finishes fifth at the Griak

Steph Price finished fifth at this yearâÄôs Griak, failing to improve on her second place finish from last season. The team also finished fifth as a unit.

In the eyes of her coaches, however, Price is where she needs to be and the scoring group is ahead of last yearâÄôs pace.

âÄú[Price] is about right where she was last year but is very much fresher,âÄù assistant coach Sarah Hesser said. âÄúSheâÄôs not quite on her game yet and thatâÄôs on purpose so that when we get to the Big Ten meet, the regional [championships] and nationals she will really be ready to roll.

Even with her conservative approach to preserve her energy for the continued grind of the season, Price still managed a fifth place finish in a field head coach Gary Wilson described as âÄúgreat.âÄù

Price finished 21 seconds out of first place with a time of 20 minutes, 51 seconds. 

âÄúI feel like I had a really strong effort, but am nowhere near where I can be at the end of the season,âÄù Price said. âÄúItâÄôs exciting to see I can run close to where I ran last year, but still feel like I have a lot more developing to do.âÄù

Ashlie Decker was the second finisher on the team for the second consecutive meet after Missa Varpness fell toward the back of the pack. 

Decker finished 31st overall at the Griak. Varpness was the GophersâÄô fifth finisher and 55th overall.

âÄúI told her, âÄòBe about 30 to 40 places off Steph,âÄô and she did exactly what I told her, but it was still a little too far up,âÄù Wilson said of Varpness. âÄúSheâÄôs got to start a little bit slower because she is such a competitor.âÄù

Molly Kayfes and Laura Docherty rounded out the top five finishers for Minnesota at the Griak Invitational.

âÄúOur whole group âÄî where we are one to five this year opposed to where we were last year is just phenomenal,âÄù Hesser said. âÄúI couldnâÄôt be more proud of the girls right now, but we will use this as another stepping stone to keep getting better.âÄù