On strength of top runners, Gophers men take 3rd, women 5th

Hassan Mead and Steph Price were named to the All-Big Ten First teams.

Derek Wetmore

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. âÄî One of several favorites to win the individual Big Ten Championships, Hassan Mead took fourth Sunday. His high finish earned him First-Team All-Big Ten honors and led the Gophers to a tie for third place with Michigan.

Unfortunately for Minnesota, he crossed the line in a Badger sandwich, as first-place Wisconsin remarkably owned the first, second, third, fifth and sixth place finishers.

It was just the latest demonstration of the BadgersâÄô conference dominance of the sport. Wisconsin has won 45 Big Ten championships and SundayâÄôs win was its 13th consecutive.

Mead had a 30-meter lead at the 4,000-meter mark and controlled the race in the middle portion. He said after the race, however, that he separated himself from the pack too early, as WisconsinâÄôs convoy was able to track him down.

âÄúI knew they werenâÄôt that far back and 30 meters isnâÄôt that big [a lead]. I knew theyâÄôd come; it was just a matter of when,âÄù Mead said.

Head coach Steve Plasencia said Mead may have broken too early.

âÄúHe tried to make a break from the group and he gave it a good shot. He said he had the wind at his back and felt good at that moment and he went.âÄù

It was MeadâÄôs lowest finish in the four years heâÄôs run the conference championship race. He is a two-time winner of the event.

âÄúIâÄôm not elated and I donâÄôt think the team is elated by any means, but a lot of people picked us in third before the meet,âÄù Plasencia said.

After Mead, the GophersâÄô finishers were Pieter Gagnon (16th), Andrew Larsen (17th), Marcus Paulson (29th) and Erik Truedson (38th).

Larsen made a late push in the last 2,000 meters to pass several runners and cut some points off MinnesotaâÄôs team score. That move saved the team from dropping to fourth place.

âÄúThis is just another meet on the way toward November 21 [NCAA championships],âÄù Mead said. âÄúThis one is a privilege but the next one we have to earn it. We have to run a smarter race, including myself.âÄù

The team will run in the NCAA Midwest Regional in two weeks to attempt to qualify for the NCAA championships.

WomenâÄôs team 5th

Senior Steph Price earned her second straight All-Big Ten First-Team honor Sunday with a fifth-place finish. Her low score helped the Gophers finish fifth as a team.

âÄúWe were a little disappointed; we were hoping to be right up in the hunt,âÄù Price said.

Price took second last year and was the favorite to win the race because the runner who beat her last year graduated.

âÄúYou come off of getting second a year ago and in the back of your mind you think first is the only way to go up, but youâÄôve got to look at the people that finished ahead of me,âÄù Price said.

Head coach Gary Wilson estimated there were between 12 and 18 future All-Americans in the field.

âÄúI ran the race I think I could today, but it wasnâÄôt my best race,âÄù Price said.

Penn StateâÄôs Caitlin Lane won the race and broke from the pack around the 4,000-meter mark.

âÄúI saw [Price] fall back a little bit and you could tell by [4,000 meters] she wasnâÄôt going to win,âÄù Wilson said.

âÄúWeâÄôre proud of the way she ran and she put herself in there and thatâÄôs all she wanted to do today,âÄù assistant coach Sarah Hesser said.

Hesser said Price may have put too much pressure on herself to try to win.

Molly Kayfes (19th), Ashlie Decker (26th), Maggie Bollig (42nd) and Katie Moraczewski (48th) rounded out the scoring team for Minnesota.

âÄúWe fought today, we just were not quite up there far enough,âÄù Wilson said.

Moraczewski fell down in the first 200 meters of the race, but still recovered nicely to place fifth for the Gophers. Her falling might not have affected the final results though, because Minnesota finished 51 spots out of fourth place.

Missa Varpness continued her disappointing season, as she finished 95th outof 105 runners. She was the second runner on the team a year ago, but Wilson said she is dealing with a mental block, which is impeding her ability.