Both teams finish third at Big Ten’s

Minnesota junior Hassan Mead won his second title to lead the men.

Both teams finish third at Big Ten’s

Max Sanders

At the 2009 cross country Big Ten Championships, the womenâÄôs team saw their two-year reign at the top come to an end while a member of the Gophers menâÄôs team added to an already stellar junior season. Led by senior Megan Duwell , the Minnesota womenâÄôs team entered the 6-kilometer race hoping to add a third consecutive Big Ten Championship, but at the Penn State cross country course the host school took home the womenâÄôs team title. Paced by top individual finisher Bridget Franek, the Nittany Lions scored 71 points, six points better than second-place Illinois. Duwell was the top Minnesota runner, finishing third overall with a time of 20:23 , earning first-team All-Big Ten honors. Staying with the lead group through most of the race, the senior fell behind during the uphill section of the race and was unable to recover. âÄúIt was from that point on where I tried to hang in there and keep as close a contact as I could, but they got away from me a little bit,âÄù Duwell said. âÄúAt that point I just did what I could do to finish strong.âÄù All five scoring members of the Gophers team finished in the top 25 overall, including a 14th-place finish from freshman Kayla Wagner and an 18th place finish from sophomore Stephanie Price. With strong performances from some of his younger runners, head coach Gary Wilson said he is pleased with the direction his team is headed in the future. âÄúTheyâÄôre just kind of waiting in the wings, and theyâÄôre ready to take the reins next year, so thatâÄôs exciting,âÄù Wilson said. âÄúWeâÄôve got a good little nucleus to build off.âÄù In the immediate future, the Gophers have two weeks before the NCAA Championship meets, and while the Gophers didnâÄôt finish how they would have liked at the Big Ten Championships, they feel confident heading into the final weeks of the season. âÄúThere was some disappointment, but I think that we definitely arenâÄôt going to back down. ItâÄôs just going to fuel our fire for the rest of the season because I think that we have a lot more to give for Regionals, Nationals,âÄù Duwell said. âÄúItâÄôll only help us from here on out.âÄù Heading into the menâÄôs race, head coach Steve Plasencia looked at the scores of the Big Ten teams going into the Big Ten Championships and aimed for a top-four finish for his squad. Led by Hassan Mead, the Gophers did Plasencia one better, finishing third overall with 97 points. Mead finished the 5.2-mile race in 25:00.2 , good for first place and five seconds ahead of the closest competitor. âÄúI think he did it in rather convincing fashion, more than what the times reflect,âÄù Plasencia said. âÄúHe took the race himself and was the aggressor the whole time; he was the guy pushing the pace.âÄù With the victory, Mead earns back-to-back Big Ten individual titles and joins Fred Watson and Garry Bjorklund as the only multiple Big Ten individual champions in Minnesota history. âÄúIt feels great,âÄù Mead said. âÄúAnytime you get in a win itâÄôs a great feeling.âÄù The Achilles heel for this yearâÄôs menâÄôs team had been the No. 5 runner. Plasencia decided to remove the red-shirt from Derek Storkel and the move paid off, with a solid 42nd place finish from the freshman. âÄúWe were able to bridge that gap a little bit. Fifth is still a little bit back, but it was a lot more reasonable today; it didnâÄôt hurt us,âÄù Plasencia said. Wisconsin added to its impressive Big Ten Championship total, earning its 11th consecutive Big Ten Championship and 42nd of all-time. âÄúI think weâÄôre getting to the point where more guys are feeling good about how their races are going,âÄù Plasencia said. âÄúI think our teams have generally been well-suited to move up to 10k, so we hope to use that as an advantage.âÄù Next for the runners is the NCAA Midwest Regionals Nov. 14 in Missouri, followed by the NCAA National Championships Nov. 23 in Indiana.