The Gophers men’s cross country team ran well — but not well enough — to beat a strong Brigham Young University team in its first full-squad competition Friday in Provo, Utah.
BYU won the event they hosted, the Autumn Classic, with a perfect 15 points. Minnesota finished second with 55 team points.
“We got lit up a little bit — BYU’s a very strong team,” head coach Steve Plasencia said. “We haven’t done anything really race-specific, and so you put that in combination with coming up to altitude, and I guess we put our guys at a little bit of a disadvantage going into a race against a really good team.”
Andrew Larsen and Pieter Gagnon led the Gophers, finishing 11th and 12th, respectively. Both ran the four-mile course in 20 minutes, 26 seconds. Gagnon was two milliseconds behind Larson.
“The spread between our top five was small, which could help us later down the road,” Plasencia said. “We need to move that top five up, and I think that’s going to happen — it’s just a matter to what degree.”
BYU’s Jared Ward won the event with a time of 20 minutes, 2 seconds. Utah Valley and Idaho State finished third and fourth, respectively, behind the Cougars and Gophers.
Plasencia said that the team will begin to focus more on in-race running rather than the early season conditioning they’ve been working on so far.
The men will have a week off before competing at the 27th annual Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 29, which will be held at Les Bolstad Golf Course.
Women dominate again
For the second straight week, Gophers women’s cross country runners dominated the top 10 against a weaker field.
“We ran pretty darn well,” volunteer assistant coach Sarah Hesser said. “It wasn’t a really competitive meet, but we just kind of come to this meet to experiment with some things and to try some different race strategies.”
Minnesota finished with nine runners in the top 10 and recorded a perfect team score of 15 at the SDSU Classic, hosted by South Dakota State.
Like last week, sophomore Molly Kayfes and junior Laura Docherty finished in the top-two spots. This weekend, Kayfes edged her teammate to claim first place with a time of 17 minutes, 15 seconds. Docherty was seven seconds behind in the five-kilometer race.
“They’ve been running great,” Hesser said of Kayfes and Docherty. “That whole top group has really been working out well, and they work out really close together. It’s really nice to have a group of six, seven or eight that on any given day are working out side-by-side.”
SDSU held the event on a flat course. The Big Ten and NCAA meets will also be held on flat courses, so the experience the Gophers gained this weekend could help them in the long run.
“On these courses, if you go a little too hard, it never gets that ugly because there’s just nothing that’s going to stop you,” Hesser said.
Hesser said that warmer-than-expected temperatures prevented the team from running as hard as they had hoped.
Minnesota will have another competition, the Blugold Invite in Eau Claire, Wis., before the Griak. However, the runners who competed this weekend will not run in the Badger state next weekend.