Bartnik returns from injury to Gophers

The redshirt senior placed 12th overall last week at the Big Ten Championships.

by Thomas Jaakola

Gophers captain Aaron Bartnik returned to race just when his team needed him.
Bartnik was limited in practice for over a month and at one point had to take eight consecutive days off due to a muscular problem in his calf.
The redshirt senior came back from his injury this past weekend, though, finishing 12th at the Big Ten Championships after not racing since Sept. 26.
“I was a little bit doubtful before this weekend, but I was really happy with my performance,” Bartnik said. “I was able to produce in the Big Ten Championships. With an additional two weeks of training here before regionals, I feel really good where I’m at.”
The Gophers hit a low point in their season a week before Bartnik’s return with a disappointing performance at the Pre-National meet in Kentucky.
But with Bartnik back running, the team took third at the Big Ten Championships, with the Eden Prairie native finishing second on the team.
“He knows how to race cross country very well,” sophomore Obsa Ali said. “He did a great job of helping the team at [the Big Ten Championships] after not racing since [the Griak Invitational.] He’s a very important piece to our puzzle.”
Bartnik was preparing to qualify for the NCAA Championships at this time last year and eventually did after finishing fourth at the NCAA Midwest Regional.
He was the team’s only runner at the 2014 NCAA Championships, finishing in 135th with a 10-kilometer time of 31:50.9. 
This year, Bartnik will only have a few weeks to regain his form for the meet, but he’ll be fresher than he was last season. 
Bartnik said by the time the NCAA Championships took place last year, he was starting to feel fatigued after such a long year of running.
“If anything, I could play [my injury] off as being a blessing in disguise, too, because I won’t be burning out,” Bartnik said. “I’m still coming on strong here, where as I know there will be individuals out there who are burning out at the end of the season.”
Bartnik is one of the few runners on the team with experience at some of the bigger meets at the end of the year, and his return will help the team as it prepares for the home stretch of its season.
“Aaron is a smart racer who will always give a full effort for the team on race day,” redshirt senior Adam Zutz said. “He has experience performing well at the big races, [and]
it’s always good to have guys that know what it takes to score as few points as they can for the team.”