Men seek improvement in top runners’ debut

Freshman Alex Brend runs at the Oz Memorial meet Sept. 7. Brend was the top team finisher at the event.

Kevin Schaul, Daily File Photo

Freshman Alex Brend runs at the Oz Memorial meet Sept. 7. Brend was the top team finisher at the event.

Drew Claussen

The Gophers men’s cross country team will look to improve upon its disappointing fourth-place finish in its opening event last weekend when it travels to Provo, Utah, for the Autumn Classic this Friday.

Having its top runners in the lineup should help.

“I look forward to, and I know the guys looks forward to, their first competition,” head coach Steve Plasencia said. “We have some guys who are Division-I savvy, and we’re excited to put that group of 10 [runners] together.”

Brigham Young University hosts the Autumn Classic, which will feature a smidgen of college teams, along with area high school teams.

The host Cougars will present the main competition to Minnesota. The Gophers will have to deal with running at a higher elevation than most of their runners are used to.

“I think [BYU] brings Minnesota in to kind of help push their team a little bit,” Plasencia said. “I don’t think that they expect that the other teams will necessarily [push them] that are in that competition.”

Contrary to the Oz Memorial, all of Minnesota’s top-10 runners will be running Friday in the four-mile race, which is a mile shorter than the team usually runs.

Plasencia said the team is healthy for the most part. He said eight or nine of the top-10 runners are in great condition after avoiding injuries over the summer.

“They’ve accomplished what they wanted to do during the summer,” Plasencia said. “When somebody doesn’t have a good summer, they put themselves at risk that the fall is not going to be very good for them because they’re not ready.

“By large, we don’t have very many guys in that situation.”

Plasencia said these early season events are great for shaking out his roster and letting runners fall into place on the team.

Women head to SDSU Classic

Ever since South Dakota State upgraded to Division I in 2008, the Gophers head women’s cross country coach Gary Wilson has brought his team to the annual SDSU Classic to aid the Jackrabbits’ transitioning program.

“We came [the first year], Nebraska came, and it’s kind of become a tradition,” Wilson said. “It’s a very nice, pretty flat course, only 5,000 meters. It gives us a chance to run fast.”

Minnesota is in the class of the meet that also features SDSU, North Dakota, North Dakota State and a couple of Division II schools.

“The competition team-wise is not going to be exceptional,” Wilson said. “From what we can experiment with and try different things, it’s kind of like when Tubby [Smith] goes and plays Louisiana Tech.”

Wilson said that running on the flat course would help the team because both the Big Ten and NCAA championship courses are flat.

“It helps to try different things early in the season,” he said.