U runners head south for important meet

Ryan Schuster

The heat is on for the Gophers women’s cross country team, not just figuratively, but literally, too.
Not only does the team start the brunt of their regular season schedule this weekend, but they also will be traveling to one of the warmest locales in the United States.
Minnesota will brave the heat and run in the Auburn Invitational over the weekend. This Saturday’s forecast for Alabama includes highs in the upper 70s, compared to Minneapolis’ forecast in the mid-50s.
The Gophers will be competing against some of the top teams in the country in a large field of runners.
“I think there’s going to be 400 plus runners and almost 30 teams,” Coach Gary Wilson said. “Our goal is to be in the top five.”
Many of those teams, like the Gophers, are on the bubble for an NCAA tournament at-large bid. The NCAA gives away 16 automatic bids in eight regions and six at-large bids each year. Wilson figures Minnesota is one of approximately 35 teams vying for those spots.
“It’s just going to come down to who’s there at the end,” Wilson said. “If we can continue to progress about 10-15 seconds faster from our two-to five runners, than we’ve got a realistic shot to do it.”
Minnesota finished second in its region in 1989 and fourth in 1991.
Senior Keri Zweig will replace sophomore Gillian Haro in the Gophers 12-person lineup. Zweig had been hampered by the flu and dehydration at the Roy Griak Invitational. She ran with the team’s second unit, which is a slower pace, last weekend to help ease into the top 12.
“I can go to Alabama having more confidence now,” Zweig said. “(Last weekend) was just kind of a stepping stone for our next meet in Alabama.”
The Excelsior native led Minnesota last Friday at the Eau Claire Invitational, placing ninth.
If sophomore Anna Gullingsrud can fend off the warm weather, she has a legitimate shot to break the Gophers varsity record for best time on a 5,000-meter course.
Earlier this year she broke All-American Lori Townsend’s record time at the Les Bolstad Golf Course. Gullingsrud then crushed her own record by 36 seconds only two weeks later at the Roy Griak Invitational with a time of 16:50. Her time was the third-fastest in school history, and just 18 seconds shy of the all-time record set by former Gopher Jodi Eder at Illinois in 1984.
Men’s Tennis
Heat will also be on the minds of the Gophers men’s tennis team. They traveled to Kentucky on Thursday to compete in the Kentucky Invitational this weekend. The tournament will take place from Friday thru Sunday in Lexington, Ky.
Minnesota is still reeling from the 100-degree temperatures they had to battle last weekend at the Arizona State Invite in Tempe.