In big Griak race, Minnesota women squeak out a first place decision while the men ran well enough for fourth place

Sophomore Jamie Cheever led the pack for the Gophers’ women in St. Paul.

Mark Remme

Doubling over shortly after crossing the finish line Saturday at the 22nd annual Roy Griak Invitational, sophomore Jamie Cheever and the rest of the Minnesota women’s cross country team looked as if they had no ounce of energy left in their bodies.

The final standings reflected that, too.

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The Gophers edged out Arizona State in the Jack Johnson Gold Division race by three points en route to their first win at the Griak since 2000. It is the program’s third win overall at the event.

Cheever led the way for Minnesota as she had in each of the team’s first two races. She finished eighth overall, coming in just one second before teammate Gabriele Anderson crossed the finish line.

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It was a team effort from top to bottom. In a race that featured 258 runners, Minnesota’s top seven came in 45th place or higher.

“These guys are just so tenacious,” coach Gary Wilson said. “Heather Dorniden (who finished 30th overall) passed 10 to 15 people in the last 200 (meters) and we won by three. That was the difference.”

Weather at the event was relatively unpredictable throughout the day. While it was windy and cool for much of the afternoon, a heavy downpour abruptly began as the women started their 6-kilometer race.

It didn’t prove to be a factor for Minnesota, as Wilson commented before the event that it was “perfect” weather for the event. His words proved to be true, for his team at least.

“There are some incredibly good and talented teams out there today and they ran really well,” senior Ladia Albertson-Junkans said. “We need to use this as positive energy toward our next races.”

Virginia senior Emily Harrison took first place Saturday, finishing the event in 20:51. She finished in front of a pair of Iowa State runners – junior Lisa Koll and sophomore Grace Kemmey.

The Minnesota men’s cross country team dropped from its second-place finish in the Gold Division race last year. It finished fourth overall.

Northern Arizona, led by Griak winner Lopez Lomong, took top honors with a final tally of 84.

Lomong, who was born in Kimotong, Sudan, dismantled his competition by breaking away from the pack roughly three kilometers into the 8-kilometer race and never looking back.

He finished 22 seconds before his teammate, freshman David McNeill, crossed the finish line in second place.

“He’s amazing,” Gophers senior Chris Rombough said of Lomong. “He’s got such good range, and he’s one of the top runners in the country.”

Rombough finished third, which was best on the Gophers’ roster. He crossed the finish line at 24:29, roughly 25 seconds behind the leader.

Halfway through the race, there were four Gophers in the top 15. Minnesota, however, was unable to keep that pace throughout.

Still, Minnesota had four runners in the top 25.

“We were pretty well conditioned,” Rombough said. “I think we worked off each other as teammates pretty well.”