Cross country teams take third at Big Ten

Eric Hammond

The Minnesota cross country teams both finished third in the Big Ten championships on Saturday at Penn State.
And both the men’s and the women’s teams were beat out by Wisconsin and Michigan.
Coming into the meet ranked 17th, the women’s team was shooting for a top-two finish, but fell to third, losing to Michigan by a mere three points.
“We are very disappointed with our finish,” coach Gary Wilson said. “This is a tough-butt conference that is tough to win.”
The 24th-ranked men were looking for a top-three finish, and were happy with their race.
“We were able to accomplish the third-place finish in pretty good fashion,” men’s coach Steve Plasencia said. “We had a 100-point bulge over the fourth place team.”

Women’s cross country
The Gophers were looking to put two or three runners in the top 10, but only one managed to crack the top 10.
1998 All-American Rasa Michniovaite continued her year of improvement by finishing fourth with a time of 17:17.68. By finishing in the top seven, Michniovaite repeated as first team all-Big Ten.
“I felt pretty good during the race,” Michniovaite said. “But I don’t think I was as high as I wanted to be.”
Behind Michniovaite, Elaine Eggleston earned second team all-Big Ten honors by placing 13th.
Corrine Nimtz had a disappointing finish of 23rd, and a back injury affected her running.
“Any little thing can throw a runner off,” Wilson said. “Corrine should have been with Elaine.”
Victoria Moses (27th) and Anita Menden (31st) rounded out the Gophers’ top-five finishers, who compiled a total of 98 points.
“It is just one of those deals where you can make up three points in about 50 different places,” Wilson said.
Even though the Gophers didn’t meet their goal of second, they still can build from their third-place finish.
“This finish just shows where our program has come from,” Wilson said. “Before we would be happy to be in the top half of the conference.”

Men’s cross country
The Minnesota men’s cross country team’s goal was to put two runners in the top 10 — a goal they reached at Penn State.
Seniors Eric Pierce and Jeremy Polson finished back-to-back in eighth and ninth place.
“Eric had a solid day, not a great day,” Plasencia said. “He was up there toward the lead, but he suffered the last third of the race.
“Polson ran a very nice race, he’s a dog, you can tell he’s hurting but he just keeps on working ’til the end.”
Joe Corr and Will McComb finished 13th and 14th respectively, and made it four Gophers on the second team all-Big Ten.
Andrew McKessock rounded out the top-five finishers for the Gophers, finishing 17th.
“I am pleased with all five runners, and actually I am happy with all nine runners who ran this weekend,” Plasencia said.
Next up for both cross country teams is a regional meet which will decide who goes to the NCAA meet.
“We need to regroup and get ready for the regionals,” Wilson said.
The Gophers are ranked second in the region behind Kansas State.
“We have a very good shot of coming out of the region with a top-two finish and an automatic bid to the NCAAs,” Wilson said.
The Gophers men are ranked first in District V, but Missouri is their best competition. And their trouble goes behind the show me state.
“Until a team puts a stake through the heart of traditional power Oklahoma State, they are still the No. 1 team,” Plasencia said. “We don’t want any letdowns. We need to be focused and ready to race.”