Gophers men’s runners ease into Big Tens

by Ryan Schuster

Never underestimate the power of coaching.
Minnesota men’s cross country coach Steve Plasencia outran his own runners, and the rest of the field Saturday at the University’s Les Bolstad Golf Course in St. Paul. He beat about 50 runners on his way to winning the Marathon Sports Open 5-kilometer title.
Plasencia was a five-time All-American while in college at Minnesota, and ran in two Olympic marathons during his career.
“We had fun,” Plasencia said. “The focus was to go out and run together for the first half, and run as hard as they could in the second half of the race.”
Midway through the contest, Plasencia could be seen leading the pack, in front of Gophers harriers Rick Obleman and Jeremy Polson. However, in the second half of the race, Plasencia turned on the afterburners and left both runners in his wake. His time of 15 minutes, 14 seconds bested Obleman by eight seconds.
Obleman, the team’s senior captain took second in 15:22, marking the fourth time this season he has finished first for Minnesota. Polson was only seven seconds behind, coming in third place for the Gophers.
Senior Tony Riter and sophomore Todd Landgraff rounded out the top five for Minnesota with times of 15:35 and 15:40 respectively. Gophers Mike Stoick, Chris Anderson, Ron Hoffner, Charles McClure, Phil Smith, Alan Broderius, Nate Clay, Chris Rogers and Eric Hartmark all finished in under 17 minutes.
The Gophers, including Plasencia, swept the first 14 places at the meet, which resembled an intrasquad scrimmage more than an invitational.
Aside from the men’s maroon and gold teams, the women’s second group was the only other team that ran Saturday. Minnesota’s top two men’s teams faced little resistance from the other runners — a bunch of middle-aged men.
Despite the less than stellar level of competition, Plasencia seemed pleased with the team’s and his own exhibitions over the weekend.
“I’m happy with it,” he said. “We accomplished what we set out to do.”
Next weekend at the Big Ten Cross Country Championships, the Gophers might wish that Plasencia could run with them again. The team will be looking to improve on last season’s ninth-place finish on Saturday in Bloomington, Ind.