On cross country team, Gophers look to freshmen for success

Both cross country teams have new runners expected to make an impact.

Madeline Strandemo runs at the 15th Annual Oz Memorial Run at Les Bolstad golf course on Sept. 5, 2014.

Zach Bielinski, Daily File Photo

Madeline Strandemo runs at the 15th Annual Oz Memorial Run at Les Bolstad golf course on Sept. 5, 2014.

Alyssa Hodenfield

The Gophers women’s cross country team saw impressive performances from both veterans and newcomers at its annual intrasquad meet over the weekend.

Redshirt junior Madeline Strandemo, the leading runner of the night, set a personal record time of 18.27.

“I’m really excited about where our team is at,” Strandemo said. “It just feels really encouraging for the rest of the season knowing that we’re in a better position than we were last year.”

Two runners who stood out were freshmen twins Megan and Bethany Hasz who finished second and third in the race, respectively.

“I was impressed with them today,” said head coach Sarah Hopkins. “They were our number two and three runners today behind a pretty proven number one, so that’s a pretty good sign.”

The younger runners bring a new energy to the team, allowing the veterans to run side-by-side with new challengers in practice as well as in the race.

The team is ranked No. 26 in Division I Women’s Cross Country by the NCAA and has high hopes for success.

“It really doesn’t take 20 people with experience; it takes one or two and then everybody else just getting the confidence to run with that person,” Hopkins said.

The men’s cross country team is full of fresh faces as well, allowing older runners to take on leadership positions.

“Having the younger guys pushes us a little bit more,” said team captain Charlie Lawrence. “It also kind of makes a lot of us step into a leadership role. You’ve got guys who would normally sit back, and now they’re stepping up into big leadership roles, and we’re going to need them because we’re so young.”

The team has no seniors and seven true freshmen this season.

While the team has some strong veterans such as Obsa Ali and Charlie Lawrence, head coach Steve Plasencia said he has high hopes for new talent, especially Connor Olson and Joey Duerr, who redshirted their freshman seasons last year.

“I’ve found so far that this has been a really easy group to work with,” Plasencia said. “The guys have a good attitude, and I think the young guys bring a kind of freshness and excitement to the whole process, and the older guys that we have returning are all deeply invested in trying to do well as a team.”

Both the men’s and women’s teams will host the annual Roy Griak Invitational and the Big Ten Championship meet to give each squad a season to look forward to.

“For us to have the Big Ten meet here really is exciting,” Plasencia said. “By the middle of October we’ll have a lot better hand on where we fit in this whole thing.”