It’s tough being a college freshman.
Getting lost on your way to class, flunking your first college test — running into trees.
That’s just what happened to Jeremy Polson, a freshman on the Gophers men’s cross country team.
“In the first 400 meters I went up a hill, ran into another runner and fell down,” Polson said. “Then I got up, ran another 300 meters, got to another tough turn and ran into a tree and scraped my shoulder.”
Despite that, Polson recovered to finish in 44th place at the Les Bolstad Golf Course during the Roy Griak Invite.
“The first time I went down I was last on the team,” Polson said. “When you go down it kind of makes you nervous and makes you want to run faster to get up to the front.”
And run faster Polson certainly did.
His time of 25 minutes, 27 seconds on the 8,000-meter course made him the Gophers’ top runner in the meet. Polson beat 90 other competitors in the race, including six other Minnesota runners.
Among those runners was senior captain Rick Obleman, Minnesota’s top runner in the team’s first two meets of the season leading up to the race.
“I think he’s come a long way,” Obleman said. “He came in this season fifth on the team, and he’s slowly increasing his miles and improving his times. He’s going to be a heck of a good runner here in the next four years.”
Polson finished third overall in the Gopher’s season-opening victory over Northern Iowa on Sept. 7 with a time of 26:01. A week later at the Minnesota-Duluth Invitational, he took third in 26:22.
The graduate of Duluth-Denfeld High School then cut a whole minute and a half off his time from his first college meet. But more impressive is the fact that he has already outrun Obleman after only three races this season.
“I felt I could be No. 1 on our team at some time,” Polson said. “I never thought I’d be able to get that far in high school. If I keep on working hard, I think I can be in the top 20 in the Big Ten this season.”
Making it to the nationals in cross country and track and field are among Polson’s goals for his collegiate running career at Minnesota.
However, men’s cross country coach Steve Plasencia remains reserved about Polson’s future.
“I think he’s still going through that (adjustment period),” Plasencia said. “Running wise he’s made a good adjustment thus far, but we’ll bring him along slowly.”
It’s hard to imagine that just months ago Polson was receiving his high school diploma, and now he is leading a Big Ten Division I cross country team.
So far it appears that Polson has thrived on the added pressure of collegiate running.
“I feel like Jeremy is the kind of runner who goes into fast races and just improves his times,” Plasencia said. “I would expect that to be one of his strong suits.”
Polson’s transition onto the team has been eased my Minnesota’s youthful team.
The Gophers 14-man roster is made up of 6 freshmen, including Polson. In addition, both junior Allen Broderius and freshman Eric Hartmark are from Polson’s home town of Duluth. They have also helped to smooth Polson’s adjustment.
Off the course, Polson has apparently adjusted to college as well.
“It seems like school is about the same with a lot more studying to do,” Polson said. “It is definitely a change, though.”
The lanky freshman from Duluth has found a home at Minnesota, both on and off the cross country course.
Another thing that has made Polson feel at home in Minneapolis is men’s cross country coach Steve Plasencia. Plasencia is one of the main reasons why Polson decided to come to Minnesota.
“I liked the idea of having a coach that will actually run with you,” Polson said. “My coach in high school ran with the team, but a lot of college coaches just sit on the sidelines and yell at the team.”
As long as Polson avoids running into trees, he should have a successful running career at Minnesota.