A pair of low-key meets while top runners rest for regionals

by Derek Wetmore

After both teams took third in the Big Ten Championships on Sunday, the second-tier of runners from each team will compete in its last meet of the season this weekend. The menâÄôs team will compete at the St. JohnâÄôs Fall Finale on Friday in what will be the final meet before NCAA Midwest Regional Championships. The meet does not serve as a tune-up, however, because the bulk of the competition is against Division III teams such as SJU, Bethel and Hamline. Instead, itâÄôs a meet where any athlete who will not be competing in Regionals next weekend can go to run one final competitive race this season, head coach Steve Plasencia said. Those who competed at Big Ten Championships will not run. The Gophers needed only five runners to score as a team, which would qualify them to win the meet. Otherwise, the runners would simply compete unattached and not have their scores tallied for Minnesota. Last year, the team sent only three runners. Success at this meet would not alter how the team stands in terms of qualifying for the NCAA championships, so the possibility of winning is merely an added bonus, not a necessity. The womenâÄôs team will be hosting another open meet at Les Bolstad in Falcon Heights. Much like JackâÄôs Run two weekends ago, the public is invited to attend the meet and compete in the race. RockyâÄôs Run benefits the Rocky Racette foundation. Racette, a former Gophers All-American, died in an car accident in 1981. Distance change When the Gophers menâÄôs team took third in SundayâÄôs Big Ten Championships, it marked the final time it would cover an eight-kilometer course. That isnâÄôt to say theyâÄôre done competing, but from this point on âÄî essentially Regionals and possibly Nationals âÄî the menâÄôs distance across the country is stretched to 10 kilometers. While it certainly would be strange if the Gophers football team suddenly had to play five quarters in the postseason, Plasencia said 10 kilometers is a more âÄúunderstood distanceâÄù nationally. âÄúCross country races are very tough; they take a lot out of people,âÄù Plasencia said. âÄúI think coaches donâÄôt want athletes to compete in 10 kilometers week in and week out.âÄù