Men’s cross country team will make seventh straight NCAA appearance

Minnesota’s men’s cross country team garnered its seventh consecutive trip to the NCAA championships by placing second at the NCAA Midwest Regional Championship in Stillwater, Okla., on Saturday. The Gophers were edged by host Oklahoma State, 78-89, but both teams are awarded automatic berths to the NCAA Championships in Waterloo, Iowa, on Nov. 24.

Just two weeks after running to a disappointing sixth-place finish at the Big Ten championships, the Gophers put together their finest race of the season to continue their national meet streak. This season, Minnesota also had to overcome the loss of All-American and 2002 Midwest Regional champion Andrew Carlson for the season due to a hip injury.

“I feel very gratified right now,” Gophers coach Steve Plasencia said in a statement. “This team ran with a purpose, they didn’t want to be the ones to see the streak end.”

Luke Mullranin ran the best race of his Gophers cross country career in pacing the team’s finish. The fifth-year senior had never run to Minnesota’s top runner spot in a race, until now. Mullranin was the first of four Gophers to earn all-region honors by placing sixth overall, covering the 10-kilometer course in a time of 31 minutes, 17 seconds.

Redshirt freshman Antonio Vega also recorded a top-10 finish to collect all-region honors in his first NCAA event. Vega was clocked at 31:24.

Junior Ryan Ford captured all-region honors for the second straight year by placing 23rd with a time 32:01. Senior Martin Robeck was the fourth Gopher to earn all-region acclaim, placing 25th in 32:03. The top 25 placewinners earn all-region accord.

Ryan Malmin just missed all-region honors, placing 26th in a time of 32:04. It was, however, the trio of Ford, Martin and Malmin – Minnesota’s No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5

runners – who provided the push necessary for the Gophers to accomplish their goal of returning to the NCAA Championships.

Oklahoma State landed three runners in the top 10 finishes in winning the regional title. The Cowboys were led by individual champion Mindaugas Pukstas, who won with a time of 30:39, two seconds better than runner-up Benson Chesang of Kansas.

Women advance two

Junior Zoe Nagell and freshman Emily Brown earned all-region honors to highlight Minnesota’s women’s cross country team’s performance at the NCAA Midwest Regional Championships in Stillwater, Okla., on Saturday. The Gophers completed their season with a sixth-place finish in the team competition.

Nagell placed 24th overall, covering the 6-kilometer course in a time of 22 minutes, 10 seconds. Brown followed, placing 25th, in 22:14. The top 25 individual place winners are awarded all-region accord.

Nebraska scored 60 points, to edge runner-up Missouri with 63. Both teams receive automatic berths to the NCAA Championships, Nov. 24, in Waterloo, Iowa. Minnesota’s sixth-place tally was 178 points.

Missouri sophomore Amanda Bales captured the individual title with a time of 21:18.

Harper McConnell overcame the flu to finish as the Gophers’ third runner, placing 34th in 22:32. Other Gopher scorers were Katrina Rundhaug in 46th in 22:48 and Jen Hess in 54th in 22:56.

Other Gophers competitors were Carly Emil, who placed 79th in 23:19, and Amy Lindner, who placed 83rd in 23:24.

Minnesota’s lineup consisted of one junior, four sophomores and two freshmen. Brown, Lindner, McConnell and Rundhaug ran in their first NCAA Regional meets.