Minnesota’s men’s cross country squad suffered from a bad case of jet lag over the weekend.
The Gopher’s flight out of Minneapolis on Friday night was delayed because of a rain storm. The team was forced to re-route through Detroit, where it missed its connecting flight to Illinois.
As a result, the team had to stay in Detroit on Friday night and catch a flight to Champaign, Ill., early Saturday morning. Minnesota didn’t even arrive at the cross country course until 10:30 a.m., an hour and a half before they were supposed to run.
Despite the difficult circumstances, the team finished ninth out of more than 40 teams at the NCAA District IV Championships. Minnesota managed to upset Miami of Ohio and Cincinnati, who were seeded No. 9 and No. 10, respectively.
“Considering everything, I think we ran pretty well,” Coach Steve Plasencia said. “Under the circumstances, I’m pleased the team didn’t fold.”
Two weeks after placing seventh at the Big Ten Championships, the Gophers continued to improve in their last meet of the season. Minnesota got progressively better as the season wore on and peaked at the end of the season, as their ninth-place finish this weekend attests.
“Nobody expected us to be in the top 10,” senior captain Rick Obleman said. “We had sturdy improvements from everybody during the season.”
The Gophers were led by junior Tony Riter’s 37th-place finish Saturday. Riter toured the 10-kilometer course in 31 minutes, 58 seconds, his best career time at that distance. He saw significant improvement in his times at the end of this season after changing his race strategy and going out faster at the starting line during meets.
Obleman, a first-team All-Big Ten runner this year, finished 40th, only three seconds behind Riter’s time. Todd Landgraff, Charlie McClure, Jeremy Polson, Mike Stoick and Ron Hoffner finished in a pack from 43rd to 118th places, all with times of within a minute of each other.
“We ran pretty tough,” Plasencia said. “That was a pretty good way for us to end our season.”
Obleman will be the only Gophers harrier not returning for next season. Minnesota hopes that travel arrangements will be all the team will have to worry about.