Carlson makes long run from Arizona back to U

Brian Stensaas

It’s 8:15 on a Thursday morning and rather than sneaking into class late like some University students, Minnesota cross country runner Andrew Carlson has just finished up an early workout.

The sweaty, straggly-haired transfer from Arizona pondered the elements.

“Right now it’s perfect conditions for running,” the sophomore said. “But I’ve got that sinking feeling in the back of my mind that it’s going to snow soon. And there’s nothing wrong with running in the snow, just more resistance.”

A native of Fargo, N.D., Carlson is all too familiar with running in adverse conditions.

Though he was recruited out of high school by Gophers coach Steve Plasencia, Carlson spent last season running for the Wildcats. Like five-day weather forecasts, his decision turned out to be incorrect.

“I think I had pretty bad intentions,” Carlson said of his college choice. “I just wanted to get as far away as possible. I didn’t really look at academics or coaching. I just thought that I needed to be in Arizona.”

Things went awry early in Tucson. The college didn’t offer Carlson’s interest, creative writing, as a major. His teammates weren’t cohesive and he didn’t receive what he considered proper coaching.

Despite all the shortcomings, Carlson didn’t let sour feelings affect his performance.

The 6-foot-3 freshman competed in all seven meets for the Wildcats, taking fourth overall at the Purdue Invitational. He raced to a 32nd place finish in the Pac 10 championships and contributed points to Arizona’s 12th place finish at the NCAA championships.

Yet, he still didn’t feel right.

Hampered by a stress fracture to his left tibia, Carlson weighed his options and eventually put in a call to Minnesota.

“I thought I could do it all on my own,” he said. “But I found out pretty quick that you need a good coach there with you.”

Plasencia welcomed Carlson to the Gophers program and still had the same feelings as he did recruiting the young runner.

“He was a state champ; his times were good and I liked his size,” Plasencia said. “He’s definitely not a short runner. I knew right away he was a dedicated runner which was a huge factor.

“He works exceedingly hard and has done everything I have asked him to do.”

Plasencia said Carlson will fill the void left by Joe Corr who left the Gophers to attend law school despite one year of eligibility remaining.

Carlson, who began running in eighth grade because his sister’s boyfriend did and was a “pretty cool guy,” said he was anxious to begin competing at Minnesota under his new coach.

He had admiration for Plasencia – a two-time Olympian – and was an immediate fan of his coaching style.

“He knows what you’re going through,” Carlson said of Plasencia. “If you have an injury, he’s probably had it. And there’s something to be said about a guy who has been through the fire so to speak.”

Carlson said he hopes to stick with the Gophers for the rest of his college career come rain, snow or whatever else is thrown his way.

“I’m pretty hard-core,” he said. “We have fun here, but we’re really focused. These guys have done an awesome job of accepting me into a normal situation. We’re a team when no one is watching, too.”