Women split squad this weekend

Derek Wetmore

The womenâÄôs cross country team will split the squad this weekend to compete in two meets that could help determine a final roster. The team is in the final stages of solidifying a roster of 12 that will compete at the pre-NCAA meet in mid-October. On Friday, head coach Gary Wilson will take the second group to the Blugold Invitational 6-kilometer race in Eau Claire, Wis. The next day, assistant coach Sarah Hesser will take nine of the top runners to the South Dakota State Invitational 5-K in Brookings, S.D. With the roster situation still unclear, the SDSU meet is the first real indicator of who the teamâÄôs top runners are. Hesser said the top group heading to SDSU includes Ashlie Decker, Laura Docherty, Rachel Drake, Katie Dyson, Katie Moraczewski, Claire Rindo, Nikki Swenson, Missa Varpness and Kayla Wagner. Top runner Steph Price âÄî fresh off her second Big Ten Runner of the Week award âÄî will miss this weekendâÄôs race to attend her sisterâÄôs wedding in Michigan. Swenson and Dyson are the only seniors in the top group, and with junior Price sitting out, every other member in this weekendâÄôs top team is an underclassman. Generally, the team would take 12 runners to a point-scoring meet like the SDSU Invitational, but because of the number of young runners vying for spots, coaches didnâÄôt want to make rash decisions on the starting lineup. Hesser said they had a few members of the team who âÄúwere really viable optionsâÄù for the final roster spots and that they felt it would be âÄúmore beneficial for them to be able to run head-to-headâÄù in Eau Claire. With Price a lock to make the final roster, Wilson said there may only be two spots left for âÄúas many as 12âÄù athletes to compete for. There are two caveats to the construction of this teamâÄôs final 12: First, making the preliminary top 10 doesnâÄôt ensure a roster spot for the full year. Second, the competition for the last few spots may not be decided until the pre-NCAA meet Oct. 16. Among others, the final roster competition is a battle between Maggie Bollig, Kelli Budd, Laura Koch, Cassy Opitz, Kathryn Salvatore, Jessica Schmidt, Kelly Wilson, Kathryn Ritter and Kaitlin Mincke. There are always athletes who could make a surprise push for the final spot, Hesser said. Wilson said he likely wonâÄôt attend the SDSU meet, instead opting to scout this weekendâÄôs race at WisconsinâÄôs Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course. The Gophers havenâÄôt raced on the course âÄî where this yearâÄôs Big Ten championships will be held âÄî since it opened in 2009.