Cross country competes in pre-NCAA

by Eric Hammond

The Gophers men’s and women’s cross-country teams competed in the pre-NCAA meet in Bloomington, Ind., Saturday.
The field was one of the most formidable assembled this year, with 24 of the top 31 teams in the nation.
“This is one of the toughest fields I’ve seen; I’ve been to national meets with less talent,” said Minnesota women’s coach Gary Wilson.
The 13th-ranked women’s team pulled off a 12th-place finish thanks to seven runners in the top 182 finishers. Minnesota finished with a total of 402 points.
“On a good day we could’ve easily been eighth in this race,” Wilson said.
1998 All-American Rasa Michniovaite led the Minnesota finishers with her 24th-place time of 17:54.10.
“I was looking to get higher, but I didn’t feel good. I am just trying to get better each race,” said Michniovaite. “I need to get back to the form I had last year.”
Elaine Eggleston finished 52nd for the Gophers and Corrine Nimtz came in a disappointing 102nd.
“Corrine just had a bad day; she ran out of gas, but she gave a gutty performance,” said Wilson.
“She usually would finish 30th, but she could’ve easily dropped to 200th as well,” he said.
With the Big Ten championships coming up on Oct. 30, the Gophers are not looking to make any drastic changes.
“We just need to do a few little things. We’re healthy and fit, all we need to do is sharpen up to get these kids ready for the Big Tens,” said Wilson.
“We still have two missions for the year: finish in the top two in the conference, and qualify automatically for the nationals in regions. We are on track to hit the top 15 in the nation.”

Men’s cross country
The Minnesota men pulled off a 16th-place finish with a total of 432 points.
“This is awfully tough competition, as good as it gets out of nationals,” men’s coach Steve Plasencia said.
“It was an improvement from the last meets that we’ve ran.”
Yet again, Eric Pierce was the top finisher for the Gophers, running the course in 25:46.78, good for 26th place.
“I wanted to be up a little bit more; I ran the way I wanted to run with a little different strategy,” said Pierce.
“He ran a strong race, but I thought he could’ve been in the top 20 in this field if he would’ve ran smart,” Plasencia said.
Jeremy Polson and Andrew McKessock made it three Gophers in the top 100 runners.
Josh Brang, Joe Corr, Jason Owen and Michael Stinck rounded out the top-seven finishers for Minnesota.
“I thought Corr was ready for a good race, but he just had a bad day,” said Plasencia.
The Gophers beat four other Big Ten teams, something Plasencia sees as a bonus.
“I’m very happy that we beat the other teams in the Big Ten,” said Plasencia.
The Big Ten championships on Oct. 30 will be another interesting race, even if the first-place teams are somewhat decided.
“After Wisconsin, whoever has a good day will be there,” Pierce said.
“Wisconsin and Michigan are clear-cut favorites, but after that, who knows,” Plasencia said.