Gophers open season with Oz Memorial

Both the men’s and women’s teams will compete at Les Bolstad Golf Course.

Freshman Molly Kayfes, center, runs beside Senior Stephanie Price Saturday, Sept. 24th in the Roy Griak Invitational on the St. Paul Campus.

Moira DuCharme, Daily File Photo

Freshman Molly Kayfes, center, runs beside Senior Stephanie Price Saturday, Sept. 24th in the Roy Griak Invitational on the St. Paul Campus.

Drew Claussen

The men’s and women’s cross country teams will begin their respective seasons Friday at home by running at the familiar Les Bolstad Golf Course in Falcon Heights, Minn.

The Oz Memorial, which starts at 4:30 p.m., will feature a spattering of runners from different schools around Minnesota. The Gophers have dominated the race in the past.

The run will be the first official contest for head coach Gary Wilson’s team, although the group did hold an intrasquad race last weekend.

Junior Laura Docherty was the top finisher at that race with a time of 18 minutes, 23 seconds.

“I feel like we all feel really good after intrasquad,” Docherty said. “We shook some dust off, and I think people are remembering how to race and are excited for Oz on Friday.”

Sophomore Molly Kayfes and junior Katie Moraczewski both posted sub-19-minute times, second and third behind Docherty.

The Oz will be the first time for Wilson to see his team, which he describes as a “good young group,” run in a competitive situation.

“They’re young but they’ve still got experience,” Wilson said. “Most of these kids we redshirted two years ago when they came in as freshman because we had a group that was very talented.”

Wilson said at this point, 15 to 18 runners could end up on the Big Ten roster that consists of the top-nine runners.

Men to split up squad

The men’s team, which starts the season ranked No. 18 in the nation in the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll, will race an abbreviated squad at the Oz Memorial.

Head coach Steve Plasencia said that the runners that compete this week will not race at next week’s Autumn Classic in Provo, Utah.

“We’re going to take a group of 10 out to the BYU the following week and none of those 10 will run [this week],” Plasencia said. “The Oz memorial is kind of a low-key race to get things started.”

Plasencia added that the Oz is a good place for redshirted runners to gain experience, and he said that he thought having a couple small events in the beginning of the season was to his team’s advantage.

“Having the low-key meets breaks us into [the season] more slowly,” Plasencia said. “We’d like the guys that run first for us to do a good job.

“It’s an odd distance for us [being] six kilometers,” he added. “You’re not going to see many other races during the season of that distance.”

With the awkward distance, Plasencia said the best way to gauge a runner’s finish was to compare times to previous Oz Memorial times.

Plasencia said he will look for his runners to start fast and finish with strength.