Carlson’s 24-minute 8K paces men to fourth at Big Tens

Ryan Malmin was close behind in 10th place. Both earned All-Big Ten honors.

by David McCoy

Andrew Carlson is on a roll.

For the third-straight race Sunday, the senior captain on Minnesota’s men’s cross country team set a new personal-best time.

Carlson’s new mark of 24:00 earned him a fourth-place finish and first-team All-Big Ten honors. This, combined with junior Ryan Malmin’s 10th-place finish, propelled the Gophers to fourth place at Sunday’s Big Ten Championships at Ashton Cross Country Course in Iowa City, Iowa.

Carlson’s time is the fourth-best 8K time in school history.

“We’re lucky to have a guy like Carlson,” coach Steve Plasencia said. “But Ryan Malmin shouldn’t go unnoticed.”

Malmin, the second Minnesota finisher, earned second-team All-Big Ten honors.

“He showed a lot of people what he’s capable of,” Plasencia said.

Minnesota finished 20 points out of second and three ahead of sixth – one less than fifth-place Michigan and three less than sixth-place Ohio State.

As expected, Wisconsin dominated the race, taking the top three places as well as having all five scoring runners finish in the top 11 en route to its sixth-straight men’s title with a score of just 23.

“What they did was really no surprise,” Plasencia said. “I’m sure everyone else in the Big Ten is envious (of their program).”

Badgers junior Simon Bairu won the individual title for the second-straight year with a time of 23:45 – 10 seconds ahead of second-place teammate Chris Solinsky.

Indiana finished second with a score of 104.

Ryan Ford, who was Minnesota’s third-best runner the whole year, suffered cramps early in the race and struggled the rest of the way.

But senior Mike Bialick stepped in nicely for Ford and was the third Minnesota finisher, in 29th place.

Plasencia called it Bialick’s best race ever, but warned about the team’s need to improve for the Midwest Regional Championships in two weeks.

“It was a mixed bag of results,” Plasencia said. “To have two guys in the top 10 is a real accomplishment. But we need to follow up with better running from the guys down the line.”

Women fourth as well

As she has been all season, Minnesota women’s cross country junior Lauren Williams was the Gophers’ top finisher in the women’s race. She earned second-team All-Big Ten honors by taking 14th overall in a time of 21:41.

Freshman Ladia Albertson-Junkans was right behind, taking 15th five seconds later to drive the Gophers to a fourth-place finish with 133 points.

Minnesota finished just two points ahead of fifth-place Indiana and nine ahead of sixth-place Penn State.

“I couldn’t have been happier,” coach Gary Wilson said. “I told the team before the race that every point counts.”

Minnesota’s fourth-place finish was in large part because of the way it finished the race.

A number of Gophers pushed ahead several places in the final 600 meters. Albertson-Junkans was one of them, moving from 21st to 15th.

Michigan State’s Danette Doetzel continued her spectacular freshman season, winning the women’s 6K race with a time of 20:33 and helping the Spartans into a tie with Illinois for second place.

“For a freshman to win the Big Ten race is pretty unbelievable,” Wilson said. “I don’t know much about her. But I know she’s good.”

Michigan won its third straight team title with 45 total points. The Wolverines were led by last year’s individual winner, junior Rebecca Walter, in second.

With Michigan the favorite to win, Wilson said he was pleased with the outcome. He directly attributed Minnesota’s success to the team’s chemistry, which he said was a major issue last year.

“This team, they just love each other,” Wilson said. “When you have that, anything’s possible.”