Williams leads team again at Ames meet

Junior Lauren Williams finished first for the Gophers again at the Iowa State 4K.

David McCoy

Keep your eyes on Lauren Williams.

The Minnesota junior continued to stake her claim as the top runner on Minnesota’s women’s cross country team Friday at the Iowa State 4K meet on the Iowa State Golf Course in Ames, Iowa.

Williams, who won the race with a time of 14:21, has been the Gophers’ top finisher in every NCAA race Minnesota has competed in so far this year.

The race was strictly an individual event, with no team scores tabulated.

Even more impressive than Williams’ first-place finish was the fact that she ran the race 30 seconds faster than last year.

But this time, it was in wet, windy weather, which Gophers coach Gary Wilson said caused most of the runners to race an average of 20 seconds slower than they did last year.

“She ran a heck of a race,” Wilson said.

Minnesota took seven of the top 10 spots. Illinois State had the other three.

Once again, senior Zoe Nagell finished second for Minnesota, as she has done in every other race this year.

Freshmen Ladia Albertson-Junkans and Annie Yetzer stepped up nicely for the Gophers, finishing fourth and fifth, respectively.

“They had a very solid performance,” Wilson said.

Wilson held junior Carly Emil out of the race with a bruised heel, saying he didn’t want to “chance it.”

Aside from Emil, other ailing Gophers continued to improve.

Sophomore Emily Brown, who has been battling a foot injury all season, was strong in an eighth-place finish.

Senior Darja Vasiljeva, who Wilson considered holding out of Friday’s meet, ran but finished 17th.

Vasiljeva, a native of Jelgava, Latvia, has consistently been the Gophers’ best runner in past years but is once again battling injuries during this year’s campaign.

With pressure on the women to earn a top-12 spot

on the team for the national meet, Wilson said he was happy to see his girls “running for spots in the race, not on the team.”

He said this is the time of the year when his team’s intensity needs to increase.

“We took a huge step in doing that,” he said.

The Gophers next meet is the UMD Pine Hills Invitational at 10:30 a.m. Saturday in Carlton, Minn.