Minnesota cross country coach Steve Plasencia knew going into the Big Ten Championships on Sunday that it would be a battle to finish in the
And sure enough, the Gophers finished 13 points behind Iowa and dropped into sixth place and the second division of the conference race held in East Lansing, Mich.
“We knew coming in there would be a battle for the middle spots,” Plasencia said.
The Gophers, fighting Iowa for the fifth spot, proved to have more depth than the Hawkeyes by posting better times at the fourth through seventh spots.
However, the difference was made in the performances by Iowa’s top two runners, who finished 11th and 14th overall.
Minnesota’s Antonio Vega, a freshman from Tartan High School, was impressive as the Gophers’ top runner, finishing 23rd in 24:52.8.
“Antonio has been solid for us all year as just a freshman,” Plasencia said.
Junior Erik Grumstrup, who has been the Gophers’ top runner all season, finished 29th overall after posting a time of 25:05.0.
The Gophers are hurting because of a key injury that has sidelined senior All-American Andrew Carlson.
The team captain, who finished 10th overall in the Big Ten Championships last season, has been given a medical redshirt for the season.
Nonetheless, Plasencia and the Gophers look forward as they prepare for the NCAA Midwest Championships in Stillwater, Okla., on Nov. 15.
Minnesota will get another shot at Iowa in Oklahoma, and the Gophers will have to finish in the top two spots to qualify for the NCAA Championships on Nov. 24.
“We have to beat the Hawkeyes,” Plasencia said. “It is that simple. And we are going to have to pick off of the other teams as well.
“It will really test the mettle of these guys.”
Women also sixth
The women’s cross country team also competed in East Lansing on Sunday and also finished sixth in the Big Ten race.
Only six points separated the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place teams. Minnesota finished three points behind Wisconsin and six points behind Indiana.
The Gophers had a combined time of 110:58.7 and finished with a team score of 170.
Junior Zoe Nagell was the top runner for the Gophers, finishing 20th overall, posting a time of 21:50.3.
Minnesota freshman Katrina Rundhaug was 35th with a time of 22:15.2, and sophomore Jen Hess was 37th in 22:16.0.
Five Gophers ran in their first Big Ten Championship race.
Like the men, the women will travel to Stillwater, Okla., for the NCAA Midwest Championships on Nov. 15.