Hassan Mead to run last CC race on Monday

Mead’s cross country career at the Minnesota will conclude at the NCAA Championships.

by Dane Mizutani


All-American Hassan Mead will conclude his illustrious cross country career at the University of Minnesota on Monday at the NCAA Championships.

His journey, however, started more than 8,000 miles from the Twin Cities.

Mead was born in Somalia and spent the first 11 years of his life there before immigrating to Minneapolis in 2000.

Upon his arrival, Mead said he had difficulty adapting to the bitter cold winter and went to live with his uncle on the West Coast.

ThatâÄôs where Mead said he was first made aware of the kind of opportunities running could present.

âÄúOut in Seattle, one of my coaches said, âÄòThis is something that a college university will pay you to do,âÄôâÄù Mead said. âÄúBeing young and watching other sports like football and basketball, I didnâÄôt know much about running at such a high level.

âÄúThat was the point I kind of realized that thereâÄôs more to it than just running for fitness or class. I didnâÄôt think it would lead to this at all.âÄù

Mead didnâÄôt run cross country competitively until his junior year of high school, but impressed in his first season.

He finished 10th at the 2005 Washington State Class 4A State Meet.

Mead said his family wanted him to finish school in Minnesota so he moved back for his final year and a half of high school.

He picked up his success in cross country in Minnesota right where he left off in Washington.

Mead won the Roy Griak Invitational, the State Cross Country Meet and the Foot Locker Midwest Regional Meet during his senior year.

His dominance got the attention of Minnesota head coach Steve Plasencia.

âÄúIt was the fall of his senior year that I saw he could be very, very good,âÄù Plasencia said.

Despite the frigid cold, Mead chose to attend the University of Minnesota.

âÄúWhen it came to making a decision in terms of college, I was interested in the West Coast, but at the end of the day when you looked at what you wanted âĦ the University [of Minnesota] was perfect for me,âÄù Mead said.

He was a perfect fit for the Gophers, as well.

Mead immediately contributed for Minnesota and placed second at the Big Ten meet and NCAA Midwest Regional as a freshman and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year.

In his sophomore and junior seasons he captured the title in the Big Ten meet and NCAA Midwest Regional.

Mead acquired All-American accolades in both of those seasons.

Then he hit a roadblock.

Mead was plagued by a burdensome AchillesâÄô tendon injury throughout 2009 and suffered a collapsed lung during a standard training run in 2010 while on the recovery trail.

Mead said he knew the risk of injury is always prevalent in the sport of running, but said he didnâÄôt foresee the collapsed lung.

âÄúThat was kind of just a rare occasion, I mean you donâÄôt really think about saying, âÄòWatch out for a collapsed lung,âÄôâÄôâÄô Mead said. âÄúThatâÄôs not the first thing you worry about when youâÄôre out there training âÄî youâÄôre more likely to get hit by a truck than a lung collapse.âÄù

The unexpected lung collapse forced Mead to redshirt the 2010-11 cross country season, but has returned to full form in his final season with the Gophers.

He finished third at the Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 24, fourth at the Big Ten Championships on Oct. 30, and is one week removed from a first-place finish at the NCAA Midwest Regional. 

âÄúI think how he handled those injuries is a testament to the kind of person he is,âÄù Plasencia said. âÄúHe did so calmly and with a positive mindset throughout.âÄù

Plasencia said he and Mead have developed a close relationship throughout the All-AmericanâÄôs career.

âÄúI felt like weâÄôve had a good relationship and got some good things done,âÄù Plasencia said. âÄúWeâÄôll be coming toward the end of his cross country career here after the national meet, so that will be kind of one chapter closed.âÄù

Mead reciprocated this feeling and attributed a lot of his growth as a runner to Plasencia and MinnesotaâÄôs coaching staff. Mead added that his final season with the Gophers offered an added incentive.

âÄúEspecially being young and having early success you kind of get used to it and when you have a long set back you start to wonder when you will be back,âÄù Mead said. âÄúComing into my last year, I definitely wanted to do some big things and weâÄôve had success and weâÄôve had some downs, but itâÄôs the process.

âÄúWe knew itâÄôs going to be a long process and our goal was to get to Nov. 21.âÄù

It was announced Nov. 13 that Mead and his teammates received an at-large bid for the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.

Now the day has finally come.

It will be the final race in what Mead said has been a career that extends beyond running.

âÄúI didnâÄôt think about where I am today and all the success IâÄôve had, and all the things that came along with it âÄî the people that IâÄôve met, relationships IâÄôve developed, friendships âÄî when I first started,âÄù Mead said. âÄúIâÄôm here at the University of Minnesota and running is one of the reasons.âÄù

 Mead still has an indoor and outdoor season of track and field eligibility left, but on Monday at the cross country championships, Mead will run his final race in the sport for which he will be most remembered.