Gophers look ahead to long season

After its first few meets, the team is pacing itself to stay fresh for November.

 Kaila Urick runs the final stretch of the Roy Griak Invitational at the Les Bolstad Golf Course last year on Sept. 27.

Image by Liam James Doyle

Kaila Urick runs the final stretch of the Roy Griak Invitational at the Les Bolstad Golf Course last year on Sept. 27.

by Tommy Jaakola

The women’s cross country team has started their 2015 season off strong, highlighted by their recent third-place finish this past Saturday at the Griak Invitational, which was their best team finish in three years.
Moving into October, the team is focused on adding to the endurance they gained over the summer. 
Another point of emphasis for the team is recovery — that means a cool down right away after a tough race and a recovery run the day after to help runners stay healthy.
“We’re focusing on building that base, mileage and something we can go off later in the year during championship season,” redshirt junior Haley Johnson said.
Redshirt senior Kaila Urick said the team is also focusing on training for the big meets coming up in November, such as the Big Ten conference meet, regionals and the national meet. 
“We have a long time left,” redshirt senior Liz Berkholtz said. “Down the road, if our group wants to be ready, for younger kids it will good to get in the habit to be at their best when it matters most and practice like you’re going to be doing it.”
Berkholtz finished in 18th place at the Griak Invitational last Saturday and said although her performance was not as good as she had hoped, she’s still confident in her fitness level and reaching her goals later on in the season.
“It’s always this time of the year for me when I’m most tired,” Berkholtz said. “I’m older, too, so I know that I can push a little harder in practice and still be fine to race, even though I may not be at the level I want to be at right now.”
The Gophers are focused on making sure they peak in November so they’re not on the downswing when it comes time for bigger races. 
Berkholtz said practice is important because during training you can test yourself out, see what works, what doesn’t and use that experience in the big races down the road.
“You put [in] the work in September so you’re fast in November,” she said.  
Head coach Sarah Hopkins said at this point in the season, the pressure jumps up a notch.
“Now, it’s the real deal; we have to make sure we’re controlling all the things we can control and going into every race and every practice with a little more intensity than we did in September,” Hopkins said. “It’s getting your game face on and knowing that every race from here on out is an important one.”