Following dominant showing at Oz Memorial, women head to S.D. to find stride

The women will take their No. 8 ranking to South Dakota for the Jackrabbit Invite.

Mark Remme

Despite a split-squad effort coming up, not much will be different between the Minnesota women’s cross country team’s meet last weekend and the one they’ll compete in tomorrow.

The Gophers will send their top 12 runners from the Oz Memorial Run last Saturday to Brookings, S.D., for South Dakota State’s Jackrabbit Invite. The remaining runners will head to the All-American Invite in Decorah, Iowa.

As for similarities, there are a few glaring parallels.

Minnesota will be facing similar teams in Brookings as last week. Not only will the Gophers face the Jackrabbits again, but they will run against Minnesota State Mankato as well as North Dakota State for a second straight weekend.

Second, Minnesota will clearly be focusing on its same 12 runners that placed highest at the Oz Memorial.

And most importantly, coach Gary Wilson and his No. 8 Gophers are showing about as much concern toward the competition they will face as they were just seven days ago: relatively little.

“It won’t be a challenging meet in terms of (teams),” Wilson said. “It’ll be good for us to go head-to-head with our own team and get a comparison from a week ago.”

It’s a matter of finding an early-season stride, according to Wilson. If runners exerted too much energy too quickly last week, this is a chance to correct it. There are meets just around the corner with far more competition like the Roy Griak Invitational, Wilson said.

Junior Gabriele Anderson will be in Brookings alongside senior All-American Ladia Albertson-Junkans. They’ll be part of a group whose goal is to squeeze the gap between the top Minnesota finisher and the last.

“I think this weekend is going to be more of a hard workout for us in terms of what we’re going to get out of it,” Anderson said. “Competition-wise it’s not going to be as intense.”

Despite having less than top-notch competition in the early goings of the season, Anderson said the schedule model is still favorable.

She said if the Gophers saw the same competition at the beginning of the year that they see in the end, it might be tough to sustain the same competitive edge throughout.

After all, it is the end of the season that counts. Not the beginning.

“There are benefits using these (meets) as time trials,” Anderson said. “It’s OK for us to start off a little less intense and work our way into the season instead of having to gear up every weekend. It’s a more relaxed atmosphere.”

Running notes

• Joining the women in the top-30 ranks is the Minnesota men’s cross country team.

After a strong performance at Brigham Young’s Autumn Classic last weekend – a race the Gophers not only won but junior Chris Rombough took first overall individually – Minnesota opened up the season as the 18th-ranked team nationally.

The Gophers are one of four Big Ten schools listed in the poll, with Michigan State ranked No. 21 and Michigan No. 26. Wisconsin is the top-ranked school in the opening poll.

• Rombough earned individual honors after taking the BYU Autumn Classic crown last weekend. He is the Big Ten Runner of the Week.

Rombough finished the four-mile course in 19:16.5.