Women runners score perfect in Oz run

Noah Seligman

Minnesota’s women’s cross country team delivered a dominating performance Saturday in the Fourth Oz Memorial Run at the Les Bolstad cross-country course.

The Gophers had the top nine finishers and 13 of the top 16 runners overall.

Minnesota finished with a perfect score of 15, the lowest possible for a cross country race. Division II school Drake finished second with 65 points and Division III Bethel College placed third with 73 points. Division II Minnesota State-Mankato was last with 95 points.

Redshirt freshman Emily Brown, who won last week’s intrasquad meet, continued her winning ways by placing first overall and finishing the 6K course in a time of 23:07. Sophomore teammate Harper McConnell finished second in 23:13.

Brown admitted that watching the team from the sidelines last season was hard, but said it ultimately helped her.

“Coming into here as a runner and not having to race the first year has its advantages.”

Coach Gary Wilson is in his 19th season at Minnesota, and is optimistic about his team.

“I’m excited about this group,” he said, adding that he believes the team will be great.

But Wilson was not all smiles after a relatively easy victory for his team.

Wilson expressed concern about too much of an individual focus from his squad Saturday.

“We’re a team, and we’ve got to run like a team,” Wilson said. “This is a team sport, and today I think we ran a little bit like a bunch of individuals.”

Wilson said the performances of sophomore Harper McConnel, junior Kim Magee and freshman Stacia Kalinoski are encouraging.

The Oz Memorial Run is named in memory of former Drake coach Gary Osborn, a close friend of Wilson’s.

The Minnesota women’s cross country team has attained success under the direction of Wilson.

In five of the last six seasons, the Gophers have finished in fourth place or higher at the Big Ten championships. In 13 of the past 15 seasons, the cross country team has finished in the upper half of the conference. Last season, the squad placed 6th at the Big Ten championships. The Gophers have been a top-25 ranked squad 13 of the last 16 seasons, and this season received votes for the preseason top 30 rankings. The team missed the NCAA championship meet last year for the first time in six years.

The 2003 squad features a young team, with only three active seniors on their 27-women runner roster. In the intrasquad meet last weekend, seven of the top 10 finishers were freshmen or sophomores.

The Gophers received a blow when All-Midwest Region and All-Big Ten runner Darja Vasiljeva injured her hamstring. She will have season-ending surgery Oct. 3.

The next race for the women’s cross country team is the Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 27 at the Les Bolstad course. The invitational has seven races and features over 200 schools.