Wilson will use meet to fill lineup

David McCoy

Minnesota’s women’s cross country coach Gary Wilson is holding his top 11 runners out of the UMD Pine Hills Invitational on Saturday in Carlton, Minn.

The meet begins at 10:30 a.m.

Because Wilson has already decided that those 11 will be going to the NCAA prenational meet Oct. 16 in Terre Haute, Ind., he’s resting them this weekend.

Now he just needs to find a 12th runner to fill the final spot.

Although the 11 frontrunners won’t be racing, don’t assume this race is unimportant.

In a sport in which a few crucial points scored by your final runner can make the difference between finishing first and fifth, finding the right 12th runner could be crucial for the Gophers to make it to nationals, because it is at the prenationals that teams earn at-large-berth points.

For Minnesota, who might not earn an outright berth at regionals, those points could determine whether they are booking hotel reservations for the national meet or having an extended offseason.

In a strategy he has employed at the Pine Hills meet every year, Wilson will be using the race to give the runners who are fighting for the final spot a chance to prove themselves.

In addition, the race could have implications for more than the last spot in case someone would be replaced because of an injury.

There will be 12 runners from Minnesota in tomorrow’s race. But Wilson said there are six in particular he will have his eye on – seniors Annie Wells, who is a Daily employee, and Paula Hoffert; juniors Amy Lindner and Kim Magee; sophomore Stacia Kalinoski and freshman Gabriele Anderson.

Last week, after Minnesota’s meet in Ames, Iowa, Wilson said he was pleased to see his women “running for spots in the race, not on the team.”

And while those six have a lot of pressure on them Saturday as they try to earn the final spot, they’re displaying the good attitude Wilson discussed.

“You don’t really look (to be) fighting for spots or anything,” Magee said. “You just go and treat it like any other race, (and) you gotta do whatever is good for the team.”

Wilson said that although the race will go far in making his determination, his pick won’t necessarily be the one who finishes first.

“It’s not a run-off,” Wilson said. “It’s just to give me another idea of those guys head to head.”

Hoffert, who finished 24th at last weekend’s Iowa State 4K and did not finish at the Griak Invitational, said that she realizes that in her last year, her time is now.

“It’s a good time to prove what we can do, and we just have to take advantage of it,” she said. “You don’t want to leave there with regrets.”

Good to go

The 11 Gophers who have secured places are seniors Zoe Nagell and Sarah Hesser; sophomores Emily Brown and Stefanie Zeihen; freshmen Ladia Albertson-Junkans, Katie Howery and Annie Yetzer; and juniors Lauren Williams, Harper McConnell, Jen Hess and Carly Emil.

Emil, who missed the Oct. 1 race with a bruised heel, was still sore at practice Wednesday. But the team reports she is fine, and after resting this weekend, Emil will be fully recovered in time for the pre-NCAA meet.