Plasencia: 12th place is a ‘stepping stone’

Lou Raguse

If Minnesota’s men’s cross-country team learned two things Saturday at the Roy Griak Invitational, they are that Kip Kangogo really “can go-go,” and Wisconsin once again will be a tough team to beat in the Big Ten.

Kangogo, a junior from Brigham Young University, won the Griak for the second-straight year, and Wisconsin dominated the team competition, finishing with 89 points. Minnesota finished 12th with 320 points.

“I wanted to be in the top 10,” Gophers coach Steve Plasencia said. “But it was a good stepping stone for us.”

Junior Erik Grumstrup was the Gophers’ top runner, finishing 43rd overall with a time of 25:06. But afterward, Grumstrup did not seem entirely pleased with his performance.

“Grumps had an average day,” Plasencia said. “He ran a solid race, but when we’re talking the difference between a very good and an average race, we’re talking 15 seconds. If he had run 24:50, he’d be very happy, and he is well within striking distance of that.”

Right from the gun, Minnesota junior Ryan Ford was near the front of the pack. However, Ford fell behind by the 3,000-meter point.

“I think as a team we took it out too hard today,” Ford said. “And myself, I took it out way too hard.”

The two biggest positives for the team, Plasencia said, were the performances of senior Luke Mullranin and redshirt freshman Antonio Vega.

Vega battled injuries during his redshirt season, and this season he hopes to step up into a key role on Plasencia’s squad.

For much of the 8K race, Vega ran with the second Minnesota pack. He moved up and finished the race fourth on the team.

“At about the 4K, I figured it was go time,” Vega said.

Mullranin was steadily leading Minnesota’s front pack through the 3K and 5K marks, and he finished the race second for the team. He was able to cut 46 seconds from his 2002 Griak time and finish in the top 50 overall.

“It’s always good to see guys run how they’re capable of,” Plasencia said.

Runners were slightly disappointed in their overall performance, as their goal was to finish with fewer than 300 points.

However, the Gophers did beat Weber State, which finished ahead of Minnesota at the BYU Invitational two weeks ago.

“When you look at 12th overall, you think that’s not so great,” Plasencia said. “But then you look at all the teams behind you, and you think that it could have been worse.”

The Gophers have six weeks to prepare for the Big Ten meet. There they will have to deal with No. 2 Wisconsin, which has won the last four conference titles.

“To beat (Wisconsin), obviously some things will have to go right for us, and some things will have to go wrong for them,” Plasencia said.

Carlson watches meet

Gophers senior Andrew Carlson was a spectator at the Griak, still recovering from an injured back he said occurred as a result of over-training this summer.

Carlson has been running in a swimming pool to strengthen his back, and he has run outside a few times in the last two weeks.

“I want to be 100 percent before I race,” Carlson said.

Carlson roomed and trained this summer with Kangogo, this year’s Griak champion.