With Oz win, Simons makes bid to become scorer

John Simons won unattached, postponing redshirt decision.

John Simons finished first at the Oz Memorial at the 6K run Friday at the Les Bolstad golf course in St. Paul.

John Simons finished first at the Oz Memorial at the 6K run Friday at the Les Bolstad golf course in St. Paul.

Dane Mizutani


Running unattached and decked out in glowing lime green apparel and orange detailed shoes, junior John Simons captured the title Friday at the Oz Memorial.

 He was able to fend off teammates Adam Zutz âÄî who was also running unattached âÄî and Matt Volz in the final 200 meters of the race, crossing the line in 19 minutes, 19 seconds.

The trio swept the podium Friday and Paul Thornton said he sees depth as a strength for the Gophers this season. Thornton is an assistant coach on the menâÄôs track and field team and was helping oversee the cross country squad Friday.

âÄúBasically what we showed today is if you take nine guys away, we can still have a pretty solid group,âÄù he said after the race.

The supposed top-nine runners competed in California in the Hornet Jamboree, where a group of them grabbed the top-five spots.

Simons, a transfer from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, has shown promise early in the cross country season, but is coming off an injury-filled spring.

âÄúI had a number of knicks âĦ after the indoor [track and field] season that added up and I ended up not being able to compete at all outdoors,âÄù Simons said. âÄúIt was probably 12 or 13 weeks without live training. It was mostly pool and elliptical stuff just to try and stay in some kind of shape.âÄù

He redshirted the outdoor track season as a way to preserve his eligibility and the redshirt, for now, has been carried over to the cross country season.

Running unattached at the Oz Memorial allowed Simons to still race in competition without lifting the redshirt, effectively postponing head coach Steve PlasenciaâÄôs decision whether or not to use him on the scoring team.

âÄúIâÄôm coming off an injured spring, so itâÄôs just smarter to keep the redshirt on right now,âÄù he said. âÄúWe talk about the future here and there, but right now weâÄôre going meet by meet.âÄù

This meet-by-meet approach to his recovery was put to the test at the Oz Memorial and Simons answered the bell.

He demonstrated his control as he ran with the group for the first 2,000 meters Friday, but decided to make his move as he neared the 3,000-meter mark.

âÄúIt was good to work with my teammates in the pack, but I kind of wanted to take over at 3K and see who wanted to come with,âÄù Simons said. âÄúIâÄôm feeling pretty fit right now, so I wanted to make a little bit of a move and nobody came with me. I pretty much cruised from there.âÄù

Simons attributes his aptitude to make the move at the 3,000-meter mark to his rehabilitation process.

âÄúI did a couple of simulated road-race type of situations [toward the end of my rehab] where I tried and just put in a surge and put the field away, right away,âÄù he said. âÄúI feel fit enough to be on the traveling team, but weâÄôre staying with the redshirt right now so I wanted to make that same move today.âÄù

Though Simons wasnâÄôt one of the top nine runners that traveled to compete at the Hornet Jamboree, he was able to display his ability at the Oz Memorial.

Plasencia and Thornton could not comment about Simons specifically, per a team policy about speaking on redshirts, but both said they like where the teamâÄôs depth is at.

âÄúItâÄôs still very early, but I think our group took it upon themselves to have a strong summer run and we came out pretty fit [this weekend],âÄù Plasencia said. âÄúHow it plays out for the rest of the year is yet to be seen, but we are certainly off to a good start.âÄù

Still, Simons said his focus remains on his recovery and continued progress.

âÄúItâÄôs awesome for me that I can use this as a training period and hopefully get back on that [scoring] group,âÄù Simons said. âÄúI feel fit enough to be a scorer, but right now thatâÄôs not what they are asking me to do.âÄù