Runners bump distance from 8K to 10K for NCAA regionals

Minnesota will compete in the NCAA Midwest Regional on Friday.

Dane Mizutani

Imagine having to prepare for an extra 15-minute quarter in a college football game just as the final seconds tick away.

Or imagine having to compete for an additional 10-minute period of a college basketball game after the final buzzer had already sounded.

ItâÄôs par for the course for the Gophers menâÄôs cross country team each year, and is again the circumstance the team will face when it travels to DeKalb, Ill., on Nov. 11 to compete in the NCAA Midwest Regional.

After the conference championships each year, cross country races stretch from a uniform 8-kilometer race to an extended 10-kilometer race.

The change will remain if the team qualifies for the Nov. 21 NCAA championships.

âÄúThere are not that many sports where they change things around like that,âÄù head coach Steve Plasencia said. âÄúI donâÄôt understand exactly why we do it that way, but thatâÄôs the way weâÄôve done it.âÄù

PlasenciaâÄôs workout regimen usually has runners on his team peaking at this point in the season, regardless of the added distance. Although the team has prepared for the added distance in practice, Minnesota has yet to run in a 10-kilometer meet this season.

âÄúI think you probably wouldnâÄôt want to run 10 kilometers all year long because itâÄôs a little bit tougher distance âÄî races are already tough enough, so they kind of have a tendency to tear guys down a little bit,âÄù Plasencia said.

In their final 8-kilometer race of the season, the Gophers tied for third with Michigan at the Oct. 30 Big Ten championships. They finished behind 13-time defending champion and top-ranked Wisconsin and No. 7 Indiana.

While the change can be frustrating to some, junior Pieter Gagnon said he enjoys the added 2 kilometers in the regional and national meet.

Gagnon is the GophersâÄô second runner, behind All-American Hassan Mead. Gagnon finished 16th at the Big Ten meet.

Gagnon said he benefits from the extra distance because it allows him to utilize his main strength as a runner and exploit othersâÄô limitations.

âÄúI will see a lot more of my competition bleeding out during the later parts of the race, and I can maintain better than they can,âÄù Gagnon said.

âÄúIt doesnâÄôt necessarily change my strategy, but I definitely look forward to the change,âÄù Gagnon said. âÄúItâÄôs something that I very much enjoy running the 10K opposed to the 8K, mostly because the longer the distance, the happier I am.âÄù

Plasencia said he is confident heading into the regional meet because of the type of runners he has.

âÄúWeâÄôve run only 8,000 meters going into this, but many of our guys are endurance-sided guys, so the change doesnâÄôt necessarily hurt them,âÄù Plasencia said.

Despite the added distance and overall lack of experience in running 10-kilometer meets, Gagnon did not temper any expectations for this weekend.

âÄúWe have the capacity to do higher volume work than most of what IâÄôve seen,âÄù Gagnon said. âÄúWe have some pretty strong long-distance guys.

âÄúI expect weâÄôre going to move on to nationals,âÄù Gagnon said.