Minnesota confident entering NCAA regional

The Gophers finished in third place on the women’s side at the Big Ten championships.

Minnesota junior Molly Kayfes runs in the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, at Les Bolstad Golf Course.

Ichigo Takikawa, Daily File Photo

Minnesota junior Molly Kayfes runs in the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013, at Les Bolstad Golf Course.

Betsy Helfand

The Gophers women’s track and field team left the Big Ten championships with a third-place finish. This weekend, it’ll head to the NCAA Midwest regional.

“Year in and year out, the way you perform at the Big Ten meet ends up being pretty similar to what shakes out at the region meet,” head coach Sarah Hopkins said.

That’s good news for Minnesota.

Senior Kelli Budd said another takeaway from the Big Ten race was the fact that other runners on the team stepped up. There isn’t as much pressure on the team’s top five runners this year, she said.

“Some of the girls that usually are in the top five didn’t have the best day, but it showed that we still did pretty damn well for not having some of our best runners up there,” Budd said.

Hopkins said she believes the regional meet will come down to Minnesota and Iowa State.

The Cyclones and the Gophers enter the regional meet as the top two teams in the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Regional Rankings. Minnesota and Iowa State finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in September’s Roy Griak Invitational.

The Cyclones finished fifth and the Gophers finished eighth Oct. 19 at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational.

The regional will take place in Ames, Iowa, and the Cyclones will have a home-course advantage. But Budd said she thinks the Gophers can overcome that.

“There’s no question in my mind that if we all run how we can, then we can beat Iowa State,” she said.

The top two finishing teams at the regional qualify for the NCAA championships, but 13 teams also receive at-large bids.

Minnesota has performed well this season and could still earn an at-large bid should it fail to finish in the top two.

“We have that luxury of not having to put all of our marbles on one weekend,” Hopkins said.

The Gophers head into the race extremely experienced and with a particularly deep senior class.

“It’s really just about being confident and doing it for each other because a lot of us are seniors, and it’s going to be our last chance,” senior Laura Docherty said. “So I think that’ll be a lot of the motivation.”

Men’s team also runs

The men’s team heads into the regional fifth in the Midwest Region.

Minnesota finished fourth at the Big Ten championships, and seniors Derek Storkel and Andrew Larsen paced the team.

The Gophers finished seventh at the NCAA Midwest regional last season and did not compete in the NCAA championships.