Gophers finish tied for 18th at NCAA run

Matt Anderson

Despite aiming for a top-15 finish and having a squad laden with seniors, Minnesota’s men’s cross country team ended its season tied for 18th place at the NCAA Championships on Monday in Terre Haute, Ind.

Minnesota finished tied with Indiana at 453 points – 53 points out of 15th and 15 points behind 17th-place Florida State.

“We set a goal of being top-15, and we fell just short of that goal,” coach Steve Plasencia said. “And we’re disappointed about that at the moment. But it’s a tough field, and we beat some good teams.”

Junior Ryan Malmin and senior Andrew Carlson earned All-America honors. Malmin paced Minnesota, finishing in 28th place and completing the 10-kilometer course in a time of 31:40. Carlson was 37th overall with a time of 31:49, good for his second career All-America finish at the NCAAs.

The race was the first time all season anyone but Carlson finished first among Gophers runners.

Rain during the weekend in Indiana made for rough conditions Monday.

“It was just an absolute mud bath out there,” said senior Mike Bialick, who finished third on the team and 141st overall. “It was quite different from anything we’re used to. But it was like that for everybody else.”

The adverse course conditions benefited Malmin, who was the team’s top finisher for the first time since last year’s NCAA Championships.

“The course was boggy and swamped down,” he said. “I run well on those types of courses, so it was a great course for me.”

Although they didn’t reach their seasonlong goal, Plasencia said, salvaging at least a top-20 finish was important to the Gophers.

“We’re a top-20 team in the country,” he said. “They don’t have to hang their heads about anything.”

The 18th-place finish was Minnesota’s best at the NCAA Championships since it earned 15th at the 1999 race, and it was Plasencia’s second-highest NCAA finish in his nine seasons as coach.

Still, the team had set its sights on a top-15 finish all season and came up just short.

“The margin between failing and being successful is really thin,” Plasencia said. “It’s not anything to be ashamed of, but we felt with this senior group a low-teens finish was possible.

Colorado sweeps races

Colorado took first place in both the men’s and women’s races. Wisconsin, whose men’s team came into the race ranked No. 1 in the country, finished second, four points behind Colorado. Simon Bairu, of Wisconsin, won the individual title with a time of 30:38.

Women’s puck signing

Minnesota’s women’s hockey team signed a top defensive recruit to a national letter of intent Wednesday.

Melanie Gagnon, a St. Adolphe, Manitoba, native, will join the Gophers for the 2005-06 season.

Gophers coach Laura Halldorson said Gagnon was one of the top defenders available this year and Gagnon will be expected to make an immediate impact next fall.

Gagnon currently plays for the Oval X-Treme in Calgary, Alberta. Last year, she helped the team win the National Women’s Hockey League Championships.

Volleyball remains fifth

Minnesota’s volleyball team remained fifth in the USA

Today/CSTV Top 25 Coaches Poll released Monday after victories over Purdue and Indiana on Friday and Saturday, respectively, at the Sports Pavilion.

This is the 14th-straight week the Gophers (26-4, 15-3) have been in the top five, dating back to last year’s season-ending No. 4 ranking. Minnesota is the only team to remain in the top five for all 13 weeks of this year’s poll.