Runners hope to ride depth to win in Iowa

David McCoy

When coach Gary Wilson put together a tentative roommate list earlier this week for the women’s cross country NCAA Championship meet – which is Nov. 22 in Terre Haute, Ind. – he found himself in a delightful predicament.

He had too many names.

Wilson said he began the list by writing down the names of whom he thought would go.

When he had finished the list, Wilson had written 15 names.

His only problem?

Minnesota can send only 12.

“Who’s going to be in that top nine, top seven, time will tell,” Wilson said. “I’ve seen so many years where our 10th, 11th, 12th, runners have ended up being in our top seven and going to nationals, (so) there might be some changing going on.”

Wilson said he believes the Gophers’ depth will carry them all the way to the NCAA Championships, which Minnesota has not competed in since 2001.

“I think this team is going to do it,” Wilson said.

Wilson also said that this time of the year is when his runners will need to keep their wits about them and not worry about their position on the team.

“It can get into, ‘I’m the 12th or 13th runner right now, and geez, I’m not going to make it.’ You really have to keep yourself focused,” Wilson said.

This weekend, the Gophers head to Ames, Iowa, for the Iowa State 4K meet, looking to improve their pacing in senior Darja Vasiljeva’s absence.

Wilson said he still isn’t sure if he will be running Vasiljeva, who missed last weekend’s Griak Invitational and has been plagued with several ailments, including an iron deficiency problem.

“That’s depending on how she feels,” Wilson said.

Predicting that Minnesota will take 15 of the top 20 spots this weekend against lower-tier competition such as Northern Iowa, Iowa State and Drake, Wilson told his team to look at the race as an “intense workout.”

“I want you pushing,” Wilson told them. “I don’t want you running; I want you racing.”

Minnesota runner Ladia Albertson-Junkans said the Gophers will be working on running as a pack this weekend.

Albertson-Junkans and junior Harper McConnell both expressed wishes that the race would help them learn to pace themselves better.

“My goal is for everyone to push each other up there,” McConnell said.

Junior Jen Hess said the meet, which is two kilometers shorter than Minnesota’s usual races, will help the Gophers for another reason.

“I think it helps to develop a little more speed, because we’ll go out in the (same pace as last weekend’s) Griak (Invitational), but then we’ll sustain that intensity through the whole race,” Hess said.

With Minnesota’s competition not providing adequate motivation this weekend, McConnell warned the Gophers about getting too lackadaisical of an attitude.

“It is different than a workout because it’s a race,” she said. “Every race is still a race, and you still want to go in there with a racing intensity about it.”