Berkholtz leads team at intrasquad tune-up

Team captain and Junior Haley Johnson competes in Friday's women's cross country instrasquad meet at the Les Bolstad Golf Course.

Joe Sulik

Team captain and Junior Haley Johnson competes in Friday’s women’s cross country instrasquad meet at the Les Bolstad Golf Course.

Tommy Jaakola

The women’s cross country team began their 2015 season with their traditional intrasquad race, and leading the pack was redshirt senior Liz Berkholtz.
 
Berkholtz led the Gophers as she ran her five kilometers in 18:28.79, besting her time at last year’s intrasquad meet by more than 18 seconds.
 
“I felt pretty in-control the whole time,” Berkholtz said. “I never passed the point of no return, like when you’ve ran too fast, but I think that I was right on the edge, which I think was really good.”
 
The captain was out in front for the majority of the race, breaking farther and farther away from her teammates as the meet progressed.
 
“Being by myself was the most challenging part of the race,” Berkholtz said. “I was trying to get people up with me and compete because it’s so hard to push yourself when it’s like that, but it was good practice.”
 
Other strong performances came from redshirt junior Haley Johnson with a time of 18:55.69, redshirt senior Kaila Urick — who ran a 19:25.52 — redshirt sophomore Madeline Strandemo at 19:28.26 and redshirt senior Ally McSherry, who finished at 19:38.02.
 
The women’s team is looking to make their 11th straight trip to the NCAA Championships this year.
 
“It was getting into a race situation for the first time and kind of just making yourself hurt again,” head coach Sarah Hopkins said. “I thought the girls did a really nice job. We definitely had some bright spots and had some younger runners step up and run really well.”
 
Hopkins thought the intrasquad race was a good test for her runners to see where they were as they attempt to make a run at a top finish in the Big Ten.
 
The Gophers had strong performances from two runners who redshirted last year, as Courtney Alama finished seventh with a time of 19:39.57 and Patty O’Brien finished ninth at 19:56.40.
 
“I think the great thing about our sport is that it’s very easy to see improvement,” Hopkins said. “Obviously, our top runners are trying to be All-Americans and All-Big Ten.
Then you also have kids that are developing that just want to get a personal record.”
 
The Gophers are out for redemption after finishing in 31st place out of 31 teams at last year’s NCAA Championships. The Gophers will begin this year ranked No. 27 in the nation.
 
“We’ve been to nationals the last ten years, and we’d like to go again,” Hopkins said. “The girls’ goal is to be top three in the Big Ten. That’d be a great thing for us. The Big Ten is one of the best conferences in the country.”