Sophomores maturing, ready to round out team

Seven of the top 10 finishers at the Oz were sophomores.

Sophomore Laura Docherty runs in the Oz Memorial Friday Sept. 9 at the Les Bolstad golf course in St. Paul.

Sophomore Laura Docherty runs in the Oz Memorial Friday Sept. 9 at the Les Bolstad golf course in St. Paul.

Dane Mizutani

 

The most critical hours in the development of a group of talented sophomore runners are those spent away from the coaches, according to head coach Gary Wilson.

Though the difficult workouts help build endurance needed amid the grind of the season, Wilson said a majority of the womenâÄôs growth comes from maturation.

âÄúTheyâÄôve taken care of the 22 hours that we are not with them,âÄù Wilson said. âÄúDevelopment is very simple. I always say to kids, âÄòCan you get a year older? Yes. Then you will get better.âÄô If you can stay happy and healthy and humble and hungry âĦ then you will get better. ThatâÄôs what theyâÄôve done.âÄù

When Wilson refers to the 22 hours away from the coaches, he is talking about the lifestyle choices his student-athletes make away from running.

 âÄúIâÄôm not their mothers,âÄù he said. âÄúI canâÄôt follow them around and tell them what to do. I can suggest, but if they want to mess it up they will do that all by themselves.

âÄúThese guys are smart though. They know what they need to do and go about their business doing it. All the credit is to them. ItâÄôs not to us.âÄù

Many of the sophomores were redshirted in their freshman year by design, so the team had a large group moving through the program together. 

The extra year of eligibility has allowed them to gain valuable experience and has helped build depth for what looks to be a bright future.

âÄúItâÄôs exciting knowing that weâÄôre not only going to be here this year and next year, but a couple years down the road,âÄù true sophomore Ashlie Decker said.

âÄúAll those kids are the foundation of the future,âÄù Wilson said of his sophomore runners. âÄúTheyâÄôve done the work. TheyâÄôve worked hard to stay disciplined. They believe they can be good and I donâÄôt think they really believed that when they were freshmen.âÄù

This self-belief has translated to success early in the season for this sophomore group.

Decker said this immediate focus exemplified by the squad this year stems from unfinished business which dates back to their freshman campaign.

âÄúI think last year was motivation for the summer because we maybe didnâÄôt reach all the goals we wanted,âÄù Decker said. âÄúThis is definitely a year that all of us were determined to do what we didnâÄôt last year.âÄù

Last season, Minnesota finished 27th at the NCAA championships.

TheyâÄôve shot out of the gates this season.

At the Oz Memorial, the Gophers first intercollegiate meet of the year, seven Minnesota sophomores finished in the top 10.

This cluster of Gophers runners seen at the finish line was a testament to the team packing together during the race, known as âÄúpack running.âÄù

âÄúItâÄôs really fun being with a teammate and seeing maroon right next to you [in competition],âÄù sophomore Katie Moraczewski said. âÄúWe work really well together and we know everyoneâÄôs style so I think we play off each other very well in that respect.âÄù

In reference to this squadâÄôs ability to run as a unit, Wilson said he sees a little bit of the 2007 team that captured the Big Ten championship in this yearâÄôs group.

âÄúThere is such a depth there in talent,âÄù Wilson said. âÄúTheir ability to pack run and stay close together and not have any big time gaps is huge.âÄù

The 2007 team won the Big Ten title despite no runners placing in the top-10 at the conference meet. Instead they finished 11th, 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th. This was good for a score of 72 points, narrowly beating out second-place Michigan State by one point.

However, Wilson added this year they have a legitimate âÄúfront-runnerâÄù in Steph Price and a âÄúreally, really good second kidâÄù in Missa Varpness to go along with the overall depth.

As the season progresses, Wilson said he is looking forward to watching this groupâÄôs continued growth, but said he is not surprised with their progression to this point.

 âÄúThey are what I thought they would be,âÄù Wilson said. âÄúBut I told them youâÄôre not going to get there if you donâÄôt take care of the 22 hours that weâÄôre not with you. Every one of those kids has done that.âÄù