For the second straight weekend, Stephanie Price paced the Gophers women’s cross country team on their home course, and for the second straight weekend, she finished well ahead of the pack.
The difference this weekend? There were other teams competing in this meet.
After winning the Gophers women’s intrasquad meet last weekend, Price led the way in the Oz Memorial Run on Friday with a 21 minute, 16.15 second performance — nearly a full minute ahead of second place.
“It was kind of the same plan as last week,” Price said, “I didn’t know where people would be, [I was] just trying to get ready for Griak with the course.”
Minnesota is counting on Price to be the leader of the young team and get comfortable with being a pacer early and often, but Price had five of her teammates join her as top-seven finishers in Friday’s domination at the Les Bolstad course in Falcon Heights.
“I always try to feel the pack behind me and race as if there’s someone right on my shoulder behind me,” Price said.
The Oz Memorial is an annual race, and Friday’s event marked the 11th running since Gary Osborn — the former Drake coach for whom the meet is named — passed away.
Osborn and women’s head coach Gary Wilson were good friends, and Wilson, who remains close with the Osborn family, holds the race every year in his late friend’s honor.
“I knew Oz since we were 25-year-old coaches,” Wilson said. “He and I had a lot of the same personality, we were both a little crazy, and he is just a good guy … He was like a brother to me.”
Osborn’s widow Marilyn Osborn attends the meet every year with her family, as Wilson pays tribute to his friend. Marilyn recalls the coaches’ relationship fondly.
“They were just incredibly close coaching friends,” she said, adding: “I think [the memorial meet] is an incredible honor, I really do.”
With the Griak Invitational now just two weeks away, the roster is beginning to take shape, though Wilson said he won’t make a final decision for a while.
Redshirt freshman Missa Varpress finished second, followed by senior Nikki Swenson in fourth, true freshman Ashlie Decker in fifth and Rachel Drake — another redshirt freshman — came in seventh.
“Normally we do try to run as a pack,” Varpress said. “We ended up getting kind of strung out because we went out hard at the beginning. But we all hung in there mentally and we all just kept working tough.”
The competition is sure to get much stiffer in two weeks with the Griak Invitational, but the young team’s handling of the slightly watered-down competition bodes well for confidence and future success.
Volz takes third for men
Head coach Steve Plasencia deployed only five competitors on the men’s side, but had several unattached runners competing as well.
Matt Volz was the highest official Gopher finisher, taking third during light drizzle at Friday’s Oz Memorial. The team took third overall, with Drake finishing first.
Drew Paradis was the only other Gophers runner in the top 10, finishing seventh.
Steve Sulkin took 14th, Andy Richardson was 30th and Max Hanson rounded out the finishers in 59th.
The top runners who competed in BYU last weekend had the meet off, but head coach Steve Plasencia said that is likely the “first team” as it stands currently.
Minnesota also ran unattached competitors John Simons (4th place), Marcus Paulson (8th), John Luterbach (9th), Derek Storkel (23rd), Blayne Dulian (31st ), but they did not factor in the scoring since they weren’t technically a part of the team.
Storkel remains an interesting case, as the team may opt to redshirt him in his sophomore year, since he expired a year of eligibility late in his true freshman season.