Solid NCAA finish ends Wilson’s long career

Minnesota finished 22nd at the NCAA meet, 3 places higher than its ranking.

Drew Claussen

Head coach Gary Wilson’s career ended over the weekend as the Gophers women’s cross country team finished 22nd at the NCAA championships.

Minnesota entered the event ranked 25th in the nation.

“It was a nice way to go out,” Wilson said in a release. “The thing that was so pleasing to me was that these kids were just warriors today. Every single kid just fought like mad.

“It was a really special day,” he said. “I couldn’t have ended on a better note.”

Minnesota assistant coach Sarah Hesser said last week that a finish in the high teens would be possible if the team ran really well. That didn’t happen, but with the 22nd-place finish in Louisville, Ky., the Gophers finished five spots better than last season.

“They ran solid today,” Hesser said in a release. “At the national meet, if you go in and run solid, you can end up over-performing from where you were expected to finish.”

Molly Kayfes and Laura Docherty ended the season in the top-two spots for Minnesota, much like they did all season.

Kayfes finished in 78th place and ran the six-kilometer course in 20 minutes, 38 seconds. Docherty finished in 107th with a time of 20 minutes, 51 seconds.

Maggie Bollig, Katie Moraczewski and Ashlie Decker rounded out the five scoring runners for Minnesota.

Oregon took home the team title, and Iowa State’s Betsy Saina finished first individually. Saina also won the massive Roy Griak Invitational earlier this season.

Wilson coached the Gophers for 28 years and won two Big Ten titles. Hesser will take over the team next year, and Wilson did not leave the cupboards bare.

“I’m looking forward to the next challenge of becoming the head coach next season,” Hesser said in a release. “We have this whole group of 10 returning, so that’s a good situation to be in.”

Hesser has been a volunteer assistant coach for eight years. Before that, she ran collegiately for Minnesota in both cross country and track and field.