Home intrasquad 5k gets things started for Gophers in quest to return to NCAA Championships

Zoe Nagell won the race in a time of 19:20 at Les Bolstad Golf Course in St. Paul.

Kent Erdahl

There wasn’t much on the line when Minnesota’s women’s cross country team competed in its annual intrasquad meet on Saturday at Les Bolstad Golf Course.

Minnesota’s runners split into two teams and competed for a Goldy the Gopher lamp, which didn’t seem too impressive until the second-place prize was unveiled – a very old mounted fish appropriately named “Charlie the Fish.”

But just because the prizes weren’t too serious didn’t mean the race was insignificant.

The meet, a 5k, kicked off the season for the Gophers, and it was really the first test for a team that is looking to get back to the NCAA Championships.

Zoe Nagell came in first with a time of 19:20 and helped the Gold team earn the lamp. Nagell, last year’s MVP, led the entire race.

“It surprised me to be leading right away because other times there’s someone else that wants to jump out front at the beginning.” Nagell said. “I was just running my own pace and it just happened to put me in the lead.”

Lauren Williams followed in second with a time of 19:22, but she couldn’t prevent the Maroon team from posing with the fish.

Williams said she was encouraged by the meet, but she admitted that everyone was pretty cautious.

“We started off a little slow but I think a lot of us were concerned about the heat,” Williams said. “It was good that Zoe (Nagell) kind of took charge. We needed someone to pull up ahead and get us going.”

Coach Gary Wilson said he was also encouraged by the finishes. But he emphasized that the meet was really about bringing the team together and competing for the first time.

He said that the top seven finishers at the intrasquad meet had never all finished the season in the top seven.

“This is a feeling-out process,” Wilson said. “The biggest thing the team needs to remember is that this is the first race, and it’s like doing anything for the first time. We need to see improvement every week.”

The Gophers hope to see that improvement this weekend when they host the Oz Memorial Run on the same course.

Williams said the intrasquad meet was valuable for preparing for that competition even though the meet was only a 5k.

“It’s kind of a stepping stone for going in to the 6ks,” Williams said. “It was nice because we’ve only done one golf course workout.”

With the limited amount of time spent on the course, Wilson said there are still things to work out before the upcoming race.

But Nagell said she is encouraged by this year’s team, and she said the improvements will come.

“It was fun,” she said. “We’ve got a really deep team, and I think that we just need to take charge a little more in the beginning.”