The strategy for Minnesota women's cross country team at Saturday's Memorial "Oz" Run was simple: let Wisconsin dictate tempo for the first 3,000 meters, then take the lead for the final 3,000 meters.
Somewhere along the way the Gophers' plan fell short, as Badgers runners took the top four spots and won the meet with 18 points. Minnesota finished second with 40 points at Les Bolstad Golf Course.
Division II's Bethel College and Minnesota State Mankato also competed in the event and finished with 116 and 85 points, respectively.
"We took another step in the learning curve," Minnesota coach Gary Wilson said of his 17th-ranked team. "The thing this team has to understand is when to step it up. We can't be tentative."
The Gophers' top two runners finished less than half a second apart. Juniors Darja Vasiljeva finished fifth with a time of 22 minutes and 34 seconds and Laura Bjork came in sixth.
The next two Gophers to come in were freshmen Carly Emil and Jen Hess, who completed the course in seventh and 10th, respectively.
"We were waiting till the 3K mark to run faster, but we couldn't catch them," Bjork said. "It's early in the season, but this gives us something to improve on."
Early on, it appeared Minnesota was holding back too much. The front six was a sea of white and red running together with some maroon and gold a distant second.
At the halfway mark, Wilson yelling to his runners to push themselves to pass those ahead of them.
Wilson said some runners were taking it too easy, but after last week he understood why. At the team's intrasquad Sept. 7, temperatures approaching 95 degrees left runners expending too much energy too early in the run.
After overnight rains and a cool front came through the area, Les Bolstad became a soggy course with what Vasiljeva called "the perfect conditions for running."
"It's about experience," Wilson said, in his 18th year at Minnesota. "Last week we ran too hard and this week we didn't run hard enough. We have to find the medium in these conditions."
With two meets under their belt, the Gophers' top runners have been pretty similar.
Seniors Jill Field, Kristine Hartmark and sophomore Zoe Nagell rounded out Minnesota's top seven finishers, leaving Wilson concerned about the rest of his runners.
"It is very easy to get into a pecking order and say, 'This is where I belong,' " Wilson said. "Someone has to take charge and make the gap smaller."
Next up for Minnesota is arguably its biggest meet of the year before the Big Ten Championships.
The Sept. 28 Roy Griak Invitational features more than 250 teams of varying ability level, including both Minnesota men's and women's cross country teams.
Dyer still resting
ophomore Lisa Dyer continues to rest her left leg after an MRI revealed a stress reaction Sept. 4, but she plans to start running this week.
Dyer was an All-NCAA Midwest regional performer last season.
"It is tough not being out there," Dyer said. "I am starting to wonder where I fit into the mix out there. But I know not to push myself."
Dyer was the top Gopher finisher at the Big Ten Championships last season.
Men's runners finish third
innesota men's cross country team finished third at the Brigham Young Invitational.
Sophomore Erik Grumstrup was the Gophers top placer, finishing 12th overall. Senior Will McComb came in second for Minnesota.
Weber State won the event while host BYU finished in second.
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