Women fifth, men 12th in Pre-NCAA meet

by Derek Wetmore

The menâÄôs and womenâÄôs cross country teams turned in strikingly different performances at SaturdayâÄôs Pre-NCAA meet, leading to frustration over where the menâÄôs team stands prior to the NCAA championships. The menâÄôs team placed 12th in a disappointing showing after having aspirations of beating some of the top teams in regions across the country. The womenâÄôs team, on the other hand, placed fifth in its Pre-Nationals race. Head coach Gary Wilson said the team likely received some at-large points by beating teams he thinks will be automatic qualifiers. âÄúWe ran really well,âÄù Wilson said. âÄúIt was a great weekend, and the kids did a good job.âÄù The pervading feeling in the menâÄôs locker room was quite the opposite. âÄúWeâÄôre pissed,âÄù menâÄôs head coach Steve Plasencia said. He added: âÄúGuys take it seriously, and nobody felt good about what happened. In regard to the team, we didnâÄôt think weâÄôd place twelfth. We thought weâÄôd do something for ourselves in the national standings.âÄù The finish is especially disappointing because the team is ranked fourth in the region and may not receive an automatic bid guaranteed to each regionâÄôs top two teams. So beating top teams and earning at-large points may prove to be critical this season. Senior captain Mike Torchia finished seventh for Minnesota and a surprising 169th overall. Plasencia said he was the first Gophers runner with two kilometers left when he experienced cramping in his calves. Torchia is one of the teamâÄôs top runners and a higher finish for him would have placed the team in a better standing. The team isnâÄôt using injuries as an excuse, however, and Plasencia said the injury isnâÄôt severe. Both teams have left their rosters largely in flux, and this weekend didnâÄôt prove progressive in terms of making final decisions. The womenâÄôs team wonâÄôt make the Big Ten championships roster decision this week but may opt to hold a run-off at next SaturdayâÄôs meet in Minnesota, Wilson said. The men are currently preoccupied with turning the page from the disappointing weekend in time for the Big Ten championships on Halloween. âÄú[Pre-nats was] one particular race and you move on from there. If itâÄôs more than one race then itâÄôs a trend,âÄù Plasencia said. âÄúWe didnâÄôt run as well as we wanted to today, and weâÄôll just get ready for the Big Ten meets in two weeks. ItâÄôll be a new day.âÄù After losing star runner Hassan Mead for the season, the team remained optimistic for its chances. But after SaturdayâÄôs showing, it may be gut-check time. âÄúItâÄôs in my hands but itâÄôs also a lot in the athleteâÄôs hands. WeâÄôll see what weâÄôre made of,âÄù Plasencia said.