Men, women head east for pivotal Wisconsin Adidas Invitational

The meet is crucial in determining who will compete at the Big Ten meet.

Minnesota John Simons outsprints Iowa state Mohamed Hrezi at the finish of Men's Division I Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 29 at Les Bolstad Golf Course in St. Paul, Minn.

Anthony Kwan, Daily File Photo

Minnesota John Simons outsprints Iowa state Mohamed Hrezi at the finish of Men’s Division I Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 29 at Les Bolstad Golf Course in St. Paul, Minn.

Drew Claussen

The season is almost halfway over for the Gophers men’s cross country team as it prepares to compete in its biggest regular-season event this weekend.

The Wisconsin Adidas Invitational, hosted by the University of Wisconsin, is the fourth event for the men’s team this season. Including post-season events, there will be four remaining after this weekend.

Members who don’t compete in the Wisconsin Adidas will run Saturday at the Jim Drews Invitational in West Salem, Wis.

Minnesota finished fourth out of six and second out of four in its first two events this season, respectively, before taking the top spot in the Roy Griak Invitational for the first time in program history.

“We had a couple of quizzes in the Oz [Memorial] and at BYU, and I don’t think we did really well on the quizzes,” head coach Steve Plasencia said. “Then the first midterm we had was at Griak, and we did well on that.

“Now we’ve got a midterm that counts for more percentage than the Griak did this weekend,” he said.

Plasencia said if he had to give his team a grade for its performance so far this season, it would be a B-plus.

This Friday, Minnesota could earn some at-large points for the NCAA postseason. At-large points are earned by beating teams that automatically qualify for the NCAA championships. Two teams from the nine regions qualify automatically.

“We need to beat some teams that in November come up and are teams that qualify automatically from other regions,” Plasencia said.

The Gophers are in the Midwest region, which is very strong. That means Minnesota’s chances of being one of the top-two teams are slim. So points gained from beating automatic qualifiers in the field at the Wisconsin Adidas are key.

“There are some regions around the country that we feel like we could win those regions,” Plasencia said. “But our region is a tall order to win because of the strength of it.”

Plasencia said the main point of the Wisconsin Adidas event was to group together many of the country’s top teams and let them compete against each other, giving teams an opportunity to earn at-large points.

Women

The Gophers women’s team will also compete at the Wisconsin Adidas Invitational this weekend, and at-large points will be key for them, too.

“There’s going to be, I think, 17 ranked teams in our field, so obviously it’s a lot deeper meet than the Griak,” volunteer assistant coach Sarah Hesser said. “It’s really important to get some at-large points for the national meet.”

This Friday’s meet will also serve as one of the final auditions for the last couple positions on the Big Ten championship team.

“As coaches, we’re in a gray spot because we’ve got a lot of options,” Hesser said. “As athletes, they’re in kind of a tough spot because there’s so many people that have the ability to do it.”

Hesser said Liz Berkholtz and Kelli Budd’s past couple weeks have put them in prime position to capture a spot with a strong run Friday. She also said the top five runners on the team are pretty much “set in stone.”

Runners from the second group on the women’s team will travel to La Crosse, Wis., for the Tori Neubauer Invitational on Saturday.