Kelly Wilson secures final spot for NCAA championships

Kelly Wilson was the first gopher to finish in the Jack’s Run on Saturday.

Jason Kopp

Kelly Wilson was the first gopher to finish in the Jack’s Run on Saturday.

Derek Wetmore

The atmosphere seemed relaxed as Gophers runners competed alongside others who were in it just for fun at Saturday morning at JackâÄôs Run in Falcon Heights. But there were several Minnesota athletes who didnâÄôt see it that way. The team will compete in the Big Ten championships next weekend in Madison, Wis., and SaturdayâÄôs race was considered a âÄúrun-offâÄù to determine the final spot on the roster. With that spot on the line, tension was palpable in the GophersâÄô corner even if the mood was light elsewhere. âÄúI think they were a little nervous, but they knew what they had to do,âÄù head coach Gary Wilson said. MinnesotaâÄôs top eight runners had the weekend off. Wilson said the coaches evaluated the performances before determining the final roster spot, which came down to senior Kelly Wilson and sophomore Claire Rindo. Wilson secured the spot by finishing first among Gophers runners Saturday, 26 seconds and two spots ahead of Rindo. Rindo missed both the Roy Griak Invitational and South Dakota State Invitational with a leg injury and competed for the first time last weekend at the pre-NCAA meet. Coach Wilson said Kelly could have competed in both meets if necessary. âÄúSheâÄôs done a phenomenal job for four years,âÄù coach Wilson said, adding that the decision came down to Wilson defeating Rindo in back-to-back weekends. He said the team plans to keep Rindo active all the way up to regionals and presumably the NCAA championships. JackâÄôs Run is an open meet, and there were dozens of unattached runners competing, including track team members like Elizabeth Yetzer and Amy Laskowske. One woman even pushed a double stroller with two kids for the entire six-kilometer course. Former Gophers cross country All-American Jamie Cheever also competed and took second, behind Yetzer.