Tough field awaits at Roy Griak Invitational

by Chris Lempesis

Minnesota’s men’s cross country coach Steve Plasencia has high praise for the Roy Griak Invitational.

“It’s a great meet,” Plasencia said. “I don’t think you’d get much argument that it’s the best college cross country meet in the nation on a yearly basis that’s held in the same location.”

Before you go accusing Plasencia of being a homer – the meet is hosted by the Gophers, after all – consider the field for Saturday’s men’s race, which is set for 11:20 a.m. at the Les Bolstad Golf Course.

In addition to the 25th-ranked Gophers, the meet will show off seven other teams ranked in the current top 30 poll, including top-ranked Wisconsin.

While Minnesota is mentioned near this top group, senior Ben Hanson said the team isn’t necessarily looking to top any of the high-ranked competition.

“Yes, we want to run well here, yes we want to run well in front of our fans,” he said. “But it’s more important that we run well at Big Tens and then at regionals and qualify for nationals.”

It might be a good thing that the Gophers are taking this approach. They will be without two of their top runners, junior Antonio Vega (back) and senior Erik Grumstrup (upper right leg).

Plasencia said he’s hoping some maybe lesser-known runners can take this opportunity to step up.

“We want people to get stronger and have a good day,” he said. “Kind of set the table for when we have a couple of these older guys, Vega and Grumstrup, ready to step back in.”

Women’s field also tough

With six teams ranked in the top 30, the field for the women’s race – which is set for 12:10 p.m. Saturday at Bolstad – is shaping up to be nearly as tough as the men’s race.

Although Minnesota is currently unranked, that’s not stopping coach Gary Wilson from believing his team will surprise some people.

“The goal, for the kids, out of 33 teams (in the women’s race), when they first started the season, was to be in the top eight,” he said. “I think we can do better than that.”

Wilson said the goal now is for the Gophers to come out of the meet topping some of the ranked teams.

“I’m excited for the team,” he said. “Because I think they’re every bit as good as they thought they were at the beginning and I just see them coming together real well.”