Women’s CC 7th at NCAA regionals

by Ryan Schuster

Cross country isn’t supposed to be a contact sport. Try telling that to the Gophers women’s coach Gary Wilson.
Two Minnesota runners got pushed to the turf Saturday morning during the NCAA District IV Championships in Champaign, Ill. Sophomores Julie Golla and Anna Gullingsrud both bit the dust in the first 500 meters of the race.
“It was a very physical race,” Coach Gary Wilson said. “Not a race for the faint of heart.”
Combine the flat course with sharp, narrow turns and over 220 runners, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Wilson estimated that at least 30 runners fell during the race because the course was not set up with enough room for the athletes to maneuver.
“It makes you madder than heck that someone who’s supposed to know a lot about cross country can go and do that at the regional championships,” Wilson said. “The course was ridiculous.”
The Gophers didn’t let the physical nature of the meet slow them down, though. Minnesota finished seventh out of over 40 teams. From the Big Ten, only first-place Wisconsin and fourth-place Michigan finished ahead of the Gophers.
“I think that seventh as a team was OK because there were at least 10 good teams there,” freshman runner Minna Haronoja said. “It was one of the best meets that we’ve ran this season.”
Gullingsrud recovered from her fall and took sixth overall and first on the team in a time of 17 minutes, 33 seconds on the 5-kilometer course. Her place was high enough to earn her a berth to the NCAA Championships on Nov. 25 in Tucson, Ariz.
“Anna was just outstanding, especially for being knocked down,” Wilson said. “She was about 30th to 40th place at the 1-kilometer mark. She could have easily given up, but she didn’t. She’s a tough cookie.”
Junior Kari Thompson, a second-team All-Big Ten selection this year, was second on the team in 30th place. Haronoja took 35th overall; Andrea Lentz finished 52nd; Karen Kleindl was 57th; Amy Hoel took 74th; and Golla finished 122nd, rounding out the scoring for the Gophers.
Next year Minnesota could be even better, as only Kleindl departs from the Gopher’s district squad.
“Our top four kids will be back,” Wilson said. “I think were going to be very strong.”