Ness bouncing back after injury

The redshirt sophomore is a second-generation runner for Minnesota.

Alyssa Hodenfield

Redshirt sophomore Bailey Ness serves as a source of positive energy on the Gophers women’s cross country team, even through hardships in her career.

Ness joined the team as a true freshman in 2014 and redshirted in 2015 due to an injury. But she has returned this season and is ready to prove what she can do.

“Bailey has been awesome. I think as a true freshman coming in she really took off right off the bat,” said head coach Sarah Hopkins. “She was in our top nine right away and ran at the Big Ten meet and then ended up getting injured that next summer, so we kind of held her out last fall to get healthy and make sure that she was at her a-game.”

Though it’s only her third season at Minnesota, Ness is no stranger to Gophers athletics.

Her father was on the Minnesota men’s cross country team as well as the track and field team from 1980-1982, but Ness says her decision to come to the University of Minnesota was her own.

“I started running when I was in seventh grade. My dad was obviously really into running, and I decided to try it,” said Ness. “I was considering a lot of other schools, but I chose here because of the coaches and the team, and just because I wanted to be close to home.”

Ness has fit in well with the cross country team in standings and has melded well with the team, socially.

Ness, an “outgoing and chatty” team member, doesn’t take herself too seriously, and Hopkins said she helps create a great dynamic overall.

“The team is very big, which is great because you get to have a ton of different personalities and different people to hang out with all the time,” Ness said. “I feel like there’s just a lot of energy. Everybody on the team is really fun and really nice. It’s just a good team to be on.”

Ness was sidelined with an injury last year and only ran four races unattached but is happy to return to the sport and challenge herself.

Coach Hopkins agrees and said Ness could end up being one of the team’s key runners.

“Our top four has been pretty interchangeable most of the year,” Hopkins said. “I told her, ‘On any given day you could be our number one, and you’ve got to go in with that mentality that if you’re feeling good, try and lead the group.’ That’s how talented she is.”

Ness has done well so far and placed fourth at both the team’s annual Intrasquad Meet and Oz Memorial meet.

She finished 85th at last weekend’s Roy Griak Invitational, and Hopkins believes she has what it takes to be in the front of the group this weekend at the Notre Dame Invitational.

“I think she’s ready for a little bounce back from Griak,” Hopkins said. “She’s feisty and competitive enough where usually coming off of an average day she usually goes out and kills it, so we’ll see.”

The teams will split the weekend with some at the Notre Dame Invitational and others at the Blugold Invite, and Ness is excited to help lead the contingent headed to Indiana.

“I just want to run a fast 5K, and I want our team to show what we can do,” Ness said. “We’ve been on our home course a lot, which is really hilly so it’s hard to get good times and show how good we truly are. It will be awesome to go to Notre Dame and have the opportunity to run on a flat, fast course.”