Gophers host high school-college meet

Ryan Schuster

This weekend the nation’s best high school and collegiate cross country teams will converge on the University Les Bolstad Golf Course in St. Paul. They will run in the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday, hosted by Minnesota’s men’s and women’s cross country teams.
The Invitational is named for former Minnesota cross country coach Roy Griak, who stepped down last fall after 33 years of coaching.
“In our sport (track and cross country) Roy Griak is one of the legends,” said new men’s cross country coach, Steve Plasencia.
Griak has stayed on this season to work under Plasencia as a coordinator for the men’s cross country team.
This is the 12th year that Minnesota has hosted the event, formerly known as the Nike Invitational. In 1995, Providence won the women’s race for Division I schools and Wisconsin won its second straight men’s title.
Last year more than 170 teams and 3,000 of the best high school and collegiate runners competed in the event. On Saturday 18 men’s and 34 women’s D-I squads, including both Minnesota teams, will tangle for the team crown.
Twelve of the teams ranked in the NCAA women’s cross country preseason top 30 poll, including No. 1 Providence and No. 5 Georgetown, will compete in the prestigious meet.
In the men’s race, four of the 18 teams are ranked in the NCAA men’s cross country poll, highlighted by No. 3 Wisconsin.
There will be a men’s and women’s gold race for D-I schools, a maroon race for Division II, III, NAIA and junior colleges, and a high school boy’s and girl’s race at the Invitational.
Despite holding out its top seven runners last weekend, the Gophers women’s cross country team is coming off of a tie for second-place at the St. Olaf Invitational. Coach Gary Wilson said he wanted to give his other runners a chance to compete.
Minnesota’s top 12 runners in the gold race on Saturday will be determined by Wilson after he combines each runner’s times in the intrasquad and first two meets. The maroon team will be comprised of the remaining runners on the women’s squad.
Minnesota finished second in a triangular meet with Arkansas and Drake to open the season at the Les Bolstad Golf Course on Sept. 13.
Sophomore Anna Gullingsrud, who is a transfer from Purdue, will lead the Gophers into action this weekend. She won Minnesota’s intrasquad race and the home triangular against Arkansas and Drake.
Freshmen Minna Haronoja, sophomore Julie Golla, junior Kari Thompson and senior captains Keri Zweig and Karen Kleindl are also coming off strong performances this fall.
The Gophers hope to use the invitational to springboard into the NCAA cross country meet.
“Our goal at the Roy Griak is to beat at least three nationally ranked teams,” Wilson said.
Minnesota’s men’s team is trying to improve on their 13th-place finish at the Roy Griak Invitational last year.
“I know where we are now, but we have yet to face Big Ten competition,” Plasencia said. “I will have a better feel for the team after Roy Griak. I think we will improve.”
Senior captain Rick Obleman leads the young men’s team to its first big meet of the season. Obleman took first in Minnesota’s first meet, a victory over Northern Iowa, and was runner-up by two seconds at the Minnesota-Duluth Invitational, which the Gophers won handily.
Freshmen Jeremy Polson from Duluth, Minn., has turned in impressive back-to-back third-place finishes in his first two collegiate meets.
Senior Tony Riter, sophomore Todd Landgraff, freshmen Eric Hartmark and junior Allen Broderius are also running well.
The undefeated Gophers will face their first real test of the season this weekend, running against Wisconsin, Wyoming, Northern Arizona and Iowa State — all ranked opponents.