Gophers finish 19th at NCAA Championship

Madeline Strandemo finished her cross country career with a 20:35.74 and 83rd-place finish.

Bethany Hasz runs in the Jack Johnson Women's Gold Race at the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016 at Les Bolstad Golf Course.

Chelsea Gortmaker

Bethany Hasz runs in the Jack Johnson Women’s Gold Race at the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2016 at Les Bolstad Golf Course.

Anthony Bryant

With a young team and high hopes, the Gophers returned to the NCAA Championship after a year removed for the last race. 

Minnesota finished in 19th place Saturday, Nov. 18 at the NCAA Championship in Louisville, Kentucky. Bethany Hasz led the way for the team with a 70th-place finish and a time of 20:29.32.       

“The national meet is a little bit of a coin flip,” said head coach Sarah Hopkins. “You want to end up on the top of the heap but today we were a little bit back.”

Megan Hasz finished 74th and posted a 20:31.01 time. Madeline Strandemo wasn’t far behind with an 83rd-place finish and a time of 20:35.74. It was Strandemo’s last cross country race of her career.

Also in the mix were Bailey Ness (21:32.56) and Courtney Alama (21:34.77) in 195th and 199th place to round out the scoring for Minnesota. Elyse Prescott (21:46.40) and Abby Kohut-Jackson (22:02.27) were also in action, placing 214th and 231st.

This was the first time six of seven Gophers runners had competed in the NCAA Championship race, with the lone veteran Strandemo being the only person with prior experience.

“Still a top-20 finish, lots of good experience for a bunch of people coming back next year and lots of freshman and sophomores that are getting a lot of experience figuring out how to run this meet,” said head coach Sarah Hopkins.

New Mexico won the team title with 90 points. Following behind them included San Francisco (105), Colorado (139), Stanford (165), and Oregon (203) for the top five. In total, 31 teams competed. With so many young runners for Minnesota, the learning curve was steep on the national stage, but it was just the right kind of necessary evil they needed in order to grow.

“It was a little bit of a deer in the headlights for some of those guys, but they learned a lot and that’s going to pay huge dividends for the next couple years,” Hopkins said. 

Though it may not have been the race the team was hoping for, the Gophers still had a lot to be proud about. After a nationally-ranked season and a second place finish at the Midwest Regional race, they’ll go forward motivated for even more.

“Overall, really proud of the fight,” Hopkins said. “We’ll get better from this.”