Senior Ford drives hard into final leg of a consistent career with Minnesota

Ryan Ford is setting high goals after a committed summer training program.

David McCoy

Running his entire collegiate career in the shadow of All-American Andrew Carlson, Minnesota’s Ryan Ford has not always gotten the credit he deserves.

Call him unselfish, call him dependable, call him essential. Talk to anyone in cross country circles about Ford, and all of them are sure to tell you the same thing:

He is consistent.

“Ford’s been working hard here for (the last) five years,” senior Ryan Malmin said. “Late in the season he’s been a reliable guy, consistently a top-five (finisher).”

For the last four seasons, Ford has quietly been the crux of a solid men’s cross country team that has reached the NCAA Championships every year he’s been on the team.

An All-Midwest Region runner for the Gophers the last two years, Ford has been contributing to Minnesota’s success since his first year..

He was the third-highest Minnesota finisher at the NCAA Championships as a freshman, with a time of 31:30 in the 10k race.

His sophomore year, he came up big for the Gophers in the crucial races leading up to the NCAA meet; Ford was the third Minnesota runner to finish at the Midwest Regionals and the fifth at the Big Ten Championships, doing so in a career-best time of 25:08.3.

Last year, the St. Cloud, Minn., native posted a career-high 23rd-place finish at the Midwest Regionals, helping the Gophers to a second-place finish in the meet. He then finished 93rd at the national meet – second among Gophers runners.

Ford began this season on a positive note as well.

In Minnesota’s first meet of the season, at the Brigham Young Classic in Orem, Utah two weekends ago, Ford took a fifth-place finish in the high altitude. Behind Carlson, he was the second Gopher to finish, propelling the team into second place.

Gophers coach Steve Plasencia said Ford ran a good race.

“He likes that course up there, and he ran well there last year, too,” Plasencia said. “There are some pretty good downhills in that course, and with his speed, I think he kind of gets going on that downhill and runs it well.”

Ford said his strong showing in Utah was the result of a committed weight-training program over the last summer, in which he lifted weights three days a week.

“I felt good at BYU,” Ford said. “I put in a lot of lifting this summer, (so) I feel a lot stronger this year. At the end of my races (last year) I seemed to just kind of die out a little bit, but it seems that this year I can get through that barrier towards the end of my race.”

Malmin said he was impressed by Ford’s commitment.

“He’s been working hard to improve himself (this) summer,” Malmin said. “So I’m sure it’ll pay off for him this year.”

Ford said he believes this year will be his best yet, and has set three personal goals for himself – placing in the top 70 at the national meet, earning a top-five finish in the regional meet and finishing among the top-three Gophers in each race – lofty ambitions for the fifth-year senior.

And he said he feels more ready than ever.

“In my five years (here), I’m probably the most fit I’ve ever been,” he said. “I feel stronger and more confident out there, both physically and mentally. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is going to be my best year, and I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.”