All-Americans lead Gophers at NCAAs

Junior Ladia Albertson-Junkans had the second-best finish in school history.

by C.J. Spang

On the legs of a pair of All-Americans, the Minnesota women’s cross country team finished its season with a solid performance at the 2006 NCAA Championships.

The Gophers finished 11th out of 31 teams, just 35 points out of sixth place. Stanford won its second straight national title and its third in four years, beating Colorado by 28 points.

Minnesota was the fourth-highest Big Ten team, finishing behind Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois, and was one of only four teams to place all seven runners in the top 150.

Coach Gary Wilson said the team was a little disappointed but pointed out his team shouldn’t be considering the number of teams sitting at home and the number of teams that finished behind the Gophers.

“The whole team ran with great heartÖ” he said. “I have nothing to complain about.”

Junior Ladia Albertson-Junkans and senior Emily Brown both earned their second straight All-America honors finishing 16th (21:13) and 25th (21:18), respectively. Texas Tech sophomore Sally Kipyego won the individual crown with a time of 20:11.1 – a full 26 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher.

Albertson-Junkans’ 16th-place finish ties her for the second-best finish in school history with Rasa Michniovaite who was 16th in 1998. Jody Eder is Minnesota’s highest finisher, placing 14th in 1984.

“It was a day for the tough out there, and I pride myself on being fairly tough,” Albertson-Junkans said. “So I think that when it comes down to a race where it’s more about guts and just going out there I tend to fare a little bit better than some of the, perhaps, more talented athletes.”

Freshman Elizabeth Yetzer was the Gophers’ third-highest finisher, placing 82nd (22:12). Sophomore Gabriele Anderson was 95th (22:22), redshirt freshman Jamie Cheever placed 117th (22:32), freshman Amy Laskowske was 124th (22:34) and redshirt freshman Heather Dorniden finished 149th (22:51).

Cheever ran the race, despite being sick with the flu. Wilson said had Cheever been healthy, she probably would have finished in the top 100.

“She gave everything ounce of energy she had,” he said. “I mean she was just holding on.”

Wilson said it was phenomenal having all seven runners in the top 150 because only two of those runners had previous NCAA Championship experience. He said he’s excited for the future of the team.

“We’re now to a level where we expect to be here, number one, and, number two, we expect to do wellÖ” he said. “The future looks obviously very bright.”

Rombough finishes 14th

Sophomore Chris Rombough capped off an impressive season with an impressive individual performance at the 2006 NCAA Championships.

Minnesota’s men’s team failed to qualify as a team for the first time in 10 years, but running as an individual, Rombough finished 14th in a time of 31:16.9 on the 10-kilometer course to earn All-America honors.

It’s the eighth-highest finish in school history and the highest finish by a Minnesota runner since Dave Morrison finished 13th in 1984.

Rombough said he was very happy with his performance, but has bigger things in sight.

“Hopefully national champion one of these next three years depending on when I redshirt or whatever,” he said. “But seeing as how I’ve progressed each year from high school on up, I still think I’ve got a lot more room to improve.”