University of Washington senior Sabrina Monro sprinted ahead of the other 299 women runners at Saturday’s Roy Griak Invitational almost as quickly as the starting gun blast.
She established a sizeable lead by the first turn of the 6,000-meter Les Bolstad course. Approaching the 3K mark, Monro’s lead had opened up to nearly 30 seconds.
A race record 20:12 after the start, Monro crossed the finish line 22 seconds ahead of runner-up Lisa Aguilera of Arizona State.
The Sun Devils won the team championship with 109 points.
Though the sun finally peeked through the clouds after a gray morning, Minnesota’s day was nowhere near as bright as its competitors’.
Sophomore Daria Vasiljeva’s 27th place finish was Minnesota’s only top-30 mark as the defending champion Gophers settled for 12th place with 367 points.
“We hadn’t run all season and it showed today,” Minnesota coach Gary Wilson said. “The kids were emotionally on top of it and maybe over the top. They wanted to do so well.
“This was a typical raggedy race that you hope to get out of your system before the Griak and we just couldn’t. It wasn’t surprising at all.”
Sporting American flags stitched on to the front of their jerseys, the Gophers were in good standing early. Several runners kept up in the pack directly behind Monro.
But the maroon and gold contingent did not pace as well as Wilson expected and fell behind in the latter stages.
Freshman Lisa Dyer came in second for Minnesota placing 44th. Senior Victoria Moses (81) and freshman Zoe Nagell (85) also finished in the top third of the field.
“I was feeling OK today, but not great,” Dyer said. “This was my first time out at 6K so it was a good learning experience. This was unlike anything I had run in before, but training here was definitely an advantage; I knew exactly how much longer was left in the race.”
Minnesota will have its first chance to rebound from the Griak on Oct. 5 at the UW-Eau Claire Invitational. Wilson believes the team will be ready to go.
“We were hitting today on six cylinders in an eight cylinder car,” he said. “But soon enough we’ll be up to seven and a half or eight. We obviously will rebound from this.”
‘U’ men `didn’t answer call’
Minnesota men’s cross country coach Steve Plasencia showed he hasn’t lost his desire to run since representing the United States in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics.
Plasencia, who competed in the 10,000-meter run at both Olympics, dashed from one end of the University golf course to the other checking the progress of his runners at Saturday’s Roy Griak Invitational.
Perhaps the Gophers should have taken the enthusiasm of their coach.
Minnesota, bolstered by scores from three freshmen, settled for 17th place and left Plasencia wondering what could have been.
“The conditions for running were good today but we should have had some more of our distance runners stepping up,” Plasencia said. “We had some guys who didn’t answer the call today for whatever reason.”
Junior Will McComb was the top Gophers finisher coming in 14th. McComb finished 29th at last year’s event.
Wisconsin won the meet with 129 points, placing three runners in the top 10. Badgers’ freshman Matt Tegenkamp was the individual champion.
Minnesota’s next meet is the NCAA Pre-Nationals on Oct. 13.