Gagnon, Torchia make up potent duo

Derek Wetmore

It is rare to find a pair of runners who regularly talk about things as far-reaching as fluid dynamics of blood flow in the heart or tubular velocity of blood vessels while on training runs. Rarer still are such intellects that run six-kilometer races in under 25 minutes. Pieter Gagnon, a mechanical engineering major, is the sophomore member of the duo seemingly defined by their proximity âÄî both intellectually and on the course. He and senior captain Mike Torchia have become good friends through the sport, as well as through their respective academic endeavors. âÄúIâÄôm sure that the intellectual level of conversations theyâÄôd have on a distance run is one that I couldnâÄôt engage in,âÄù head coach Steve Plasencia said. âÄúThey might reach into some topics that IâÄôd have no business being a part of.âÄù Torchia, a medical school hopeful, admits that conversations between the two can get âÄúpretty nerdy every once in a while.âÄù Runners on the team generally train in pairs, and beyond their academic endeavors, the Gagnon-Torchia duo has ascended to near the height of the team. They run similar times and are near the top of the teamâÄôs top-seven roster. âÄúI couldnâÄôt ask for much more of a training partner,âÄù Torchia said. âÄúHeâÄôs consistent, and heâÄôs always there. HeâÄôs never going to shy away from the work.âÄù Gagnon ran cross country for Washburn High School in Minneapolis, but wasnâÄôt what coach Plasencia described as one of the âÄúelite fewâÄù high school recruits. âÄúAs a coach, you donâÄôt have the crystal ball to see [athleteâÄôs futures],âÄù Plasencia said. âÄúYou look for guys who might come along, and Pieter has equaled or exceeded expectations that IâÄôve had for him.âÄù Plasencia added itâÄôs what every coach hopes will happen with runners upon entering college. Part of the problem may have been level of competition. Gagnon did enough in high school to land himself on MinnesotaâÄôs radar, but really took off against tougher competition, and training, once he got there. The partnership with Torchia played a big part in that training. The pair runs hard even on âÄúrecovery runs,âÄù quasi-off-days in between hard workouts, which Plasencia said is indicative of elite-level runners. âÄúIt goes back to synergy,âÄù Torchia said. âÄúAfter summer workouts, you no longer take for granted the fact that you have training partners.âÄù Especially with star runner Hassan Mead out for the season, the duo will need to score points at the pre-NCAA meet for the Gophers to have a chance at an at-large qualifier bid later in the season. âÄúWe are doing well with what we have to work with,âÄù Gagnon said. âÄúWe do have more depth this year than we have in years past and weâÄôre pleased with what weâÄôre seeing so far.âÄù