Cross country teams enjoy solid Griak performances Saturday

Brett Angel

Minnesota’s men’s cross country team finished fifth at the Roy Griak Invitational at the Les Bolstad Golf Course Saturday in St. Paul.

More than 50 NCAA Division I schools and nearly 2,600 runners compete at the Griak each year. It is the largest cross country meet in the nation.

Paced by junior Andrew Carlson’s 10th-place finish, the Gophers improved 12 spots from last year’s 17th-place finish and were tops among the six Big Ten teams in the field.

“It’s been waiting for us,” said Carlson of the team’s solid finish amid national competition. “We’ve been doing the work and doing the right stuff to get it done, but this isn’t even the peak yet.”

The team also got strong performances from seniors Will McComb and Neil Hanson, who finished 26th and 28th, respectively.

Minnesota head coach Steve Plasencia was pleased with the results, but is making sure his team stays focused on the meets that matter most.

“We’re happy, but we’re not elated,” Plasencia said.

“This finish will mean nothing if down the road in November we’re not ready to go,” he added, referring the Big Ten Championships and NCAA meet.

While the Gophers came into Saturday anxious to see how they would place against national competition, they can now walk away knowing they’ve got the potential to compete with anyone.

“I think we were confident coming in, but it helps to build the confidence to prove it to yourself that you can run with some good teams,” Plasencia said.

ïBYU sophomore Kip Kangogo broke the course record by 18 seconds and beat defending national champion Boaz Cheboiywo of Eastern Michigan on his way to the individual title. Kangogo covered the 8-km course in 23 minutes and 39 seconds.

ïNinth-ranked Oregon won the team competition with a total of 96 points. Defending Big Ten champion Wisconsin finished eighth.

Women finish 11th

the Minnesota women finished 11th out of 22 teams in their race.

Junior Darja Vasiljeva continued her strong season by finishing 10th overall to lead the Gophers.

Head coach Gary Wilson commended his runners for their effort Saturday in a post-race team meeting, calling them “real warriors.”

But he said the team needs better performances out of its number two, three and four runners in order for the Gophers to fulfill their potential.

“They obviously can do a lot better,” said Wilson. “But that’s part of the Griak experience.”

It was the first big-time collegiate meet for freshmen Carly Emil and Jen Hess, who represent the future of the Minnesota women’s cross country program.

Emil finished second for the Gophers and 38th overall. Hess was fourth for the team and 72nd overall.

With 196 competitors in the women’s Gold Race alone, the Griak can be overwhelming for first-time competitors.

“It’s intimidating,” assistant coach Patti Percival said. “You’ve got to know that even if you’re in the middle of the pack you could still be running great, it’s just that you’re up against some of the best runners in the country.”

Emil recalled first seeing the size of the field and called it “really scary.”

Although the Gophers were somewhat disappointed with their 11th-place finish, Percival thinks the experience from this meet will be invaluable down the road.

“We didn’t reach what we thought we were capable of today,” said Percival. “But to get through the Griak is really helpful so when we go to the Big Ten meet, it won’t be as intimidating.”

ïMichigan State junior Michelle Carson won the individual title and led her team to first place in the team competition as well.