Griak, a chance to make a statement

Both teams are coming off first place finishes in their previous races.

Mark Remme

Elizabeth Yetzer isn’t exactly inexperienced when it comes to the Roy Griak Invitational.

The Minnesota women’s cross country sophomore won the girls’ high school race in 2005, one year before joining the Gophers. She became just the fourth Griak high school champion in history to ultimately join Minnesota.

As a freshman for the eighth-ranked Gophers, Yetzer experienced another important event in her career at the Griak, this time not so favorable. Yetzer took 47th place individually last year as Minnesota came in fourth behind California-Santa Barbara, Arizona State and Baylor.

“It was the first time I raced a lot of people that were a lot faster than me,” Yetzer said. “It was really overwhelming, but it was a really good experience.

saturday cross country schedule

cross country
when: Saturday, Sept. 29
schedule: 9:45 a.m. Women’s Maroon II Race
10:30 a.m. Men’s Maroon III Race
11:20 a.m. Men’s Maroon II Race 1
12:10 p.m. Men’s Gold Race
12:55 p.m. Jack Johnson Women’s Gold Race
where: Les Bolstad Golf Course, St Paul

“Now after racing a few more college races, I’m finding out how to get energy from the people around me.”

The men’s and women’s cross country teams will get a shot at that sensation Saturday as both will compete in the Roy Griak Invitational at Les Bolstad Golf Course. The men’s team will race at 12:10 while the women will begin at 12:55.

This is a statement weekend for both squads. Women’s coach Gary Wilson’s team had last weekend off after sophomore Jamie Cheever led the Gophers to a perfect-score victory at the South Dakota State Jackrabbit Invitational.

The men’s squad hasn’t raced since winning the Brigham Young Autumn Classic two weeks ago in Utah. Both teams realize the significance of the Griak in terms of competitiveness, yet realize that peaking this early wouldn’t bode well once the postseason rolls around.

“(The team) knows that it’s a great meet. It’s a big meet,” Wilson said. “They also know that we’ve got four top ten teams running against each other. We finished fourth last year at this meet and ended up taking 11th in the country.”

In the women’s polls, Minnesota, Arizona State, Michigan State and Virginia rank in the top ten nationally and will all be present at Les Bolstad.

The four teams make up eight Griak champions dating back to the race’s inception in 1986. The Sun Devils hold four of those titles – its latest coming in 2005 – including three since Minnesota’s last victory in 2000.

The Minnesota men’s team has a bit more of an uphill battle. The Gophers are currently ranked 18th nationally but have never won at the Griak.

They’ll look to junior Chris Rombough to add a spark. Rombough won the BYU Autumn classic two weeks ago.

Rombough took 13th place last year, one spot behind graduated teammate Antonio Vega, as the Gophers placed second behind Arizona.

Rombough said despite losing Vega to graduation, he is confident this squad has more than enough strength to perhaps take the event.

“I think we have two, three or four guys who can take Vega’s place,” Rombough said. “For instance, we’ve got Forrest Tahdooahnippah who is our fourth runner compared to him being Stanford’s third runner last year. And they took fourth at nationals; that shows me we have a special team.”

With last year’s Griak champion Arizona and 11-time winner Wisconsin both participating elsewhere this weekend, perhaps this is coach Steve Plasencia’s chance to leapfrog to the top.

“It definitely would be nice to win it,” Rombough said. “I don’t want to take second this year.”