Women’s cross country might lose top runner

Darja Vasiljeva, the team’s best finisher in all of last year’s events, will meet with doctors today.

Minnesota’s women’s cross country team kicked off its season Saturday with its annual intrasquad meet held at the Les Bolstad Golf Course.

Redshirt freshman Emily Brown finished the 5,000-meter race first with a time of 19 minutes, 20 seconds. But on a down note, those attending the meet learned senior Darja Vasiljeva might not get to compete at all this season.

Vasiljeva is nursing a hamstring injury, which was initially expected to keep her out until the Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 27. Now, coach Gary Wilson might opt to redshirt Vasiljeva to prevent worsening the injury.

“She could run, but it’s like having a Mercedes,” Wilson said. “If you have a Mercedes, and the wheel is squeaking, you don’t push it or the wheel may fall off.”

Wilson said Vasiljeva, who was the Gophers’ top finisher in every meet last season, will meet with doctors today. Afterward, Wilson can better evaluate her situation.

The Gophers divided into two teams for the intrasquad meet, and the Maroon team defeated the Gold team 22-33. Lauren Williams finished right behind Brown at 19:22, while Zoe Nagell finished third at 19:24.

The top 10 runners finished within 29 seconds of each other, making Wilson optimistic for this season.

“I think you are going to see some interchangeable parts this year,” Wilson said. “We are such a deep team that I think we can still be better than we were two years ago when we went to nationals.”

The intrasquad was Brown’s first race since recovering from foot surgery last season.

“For my first race back, I was just hoping to be in the middle of the pack, but the race just worked out where I worked my way up,” Brown said.

Wilson was pleased with Brown’s performance, but he said his young runners have been practicing so well it did not surprise him.

“Six kids out of the top eight were either rookies or didn’t run last year, so there is a whole different feel to this team,” Wilson said. “We have great kids, great attitudes, and wonderful captains doing a wonderful job.”

With the temperatures reaching into the 80s on Saturday, Wilson made sure the runners took water.

Senior captain Anita Menden still experienced headaches, however, and dropped out of the race at the 3K mark.

“I had a great practice Wednesday,” said Menden, who was injured and missed most of last season. “Hopefully I’ll be all right next weekend.”

The Gophers host the Oz Memorial Run this Saturday at 11 a.m. with Bethel College, Drake and Minnesota State-Mankato also competing.