Coach flips coin to choose lineup

by Ryan Schuster

It spun in the air, end over end, as both athletes watched attentively. Finally the coin landed tails up, cementing the Minnesota women’s cross country team’s nine-person lineup for this weekend’s Big Ten Cross Country Championships.
Faced with the unenviable task of choosing the team’s final runner to compete at the Big Tens, Gophers coach Gary Wilson decided to flip a coin.
Junior Andrea Lentz and sophomore Julie Golla were neck and neck the entire season, with each runner defeating the other one twice. Only three seconds separated each competitor’s total times over the entire year.
Lentz won in the best-of-six exhibition hosted by Wilson after practice last Wednesday, sending her to the Big Tens, while Golla stays home.
“I’ve never had to do that in 20 years of coaching,” Wilson said. “It’s very frustrating for both of them.”
After finishing fifth at last year’s Big Tens, Minnesota has improved their times in every spot on the team, but are still seeded fifth in the conference.
Sophomore Anna Gullingsrud improved on the times ran by last year’s top runner Lori Townsend, who used up her eligibility last season.
Gullingsrud holds the top two five-kilometer times ran by a women’s cross country athlete at the University’s Les Bolstad Golf Course. She earned that distinction in the team’s first meet, and then beat her own record at the Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 28 with a time of 16 minutes, 50 seconds.
Freshman Minna Haronoja and junior Kari Thompson have also had impressive performances this season. They have combined for one first-place finish, five seconds and four thirds in the five meets in which both have competed.
Karen Kleindl, Janet Howe, Bridget Neutgens, Keri Zweig and Amy Hoel will also run for Minnesota at the Big Tens.
The team expects to compete with Michigan State for fourth place this weekend.
“We’re just basically retuning the car,” Wilson said. The team is “getting progressively better each week. They know what they have to do.”
Just as Lentz and Golla each had a 50 percent opportunity of winning the coin flip, the chances of Minnesota beating Michigan State for fourth place at the Big Tens are about even.