The Gophers men’s cross country team exerted their dominance across the nation this weekend.
Minnesota sent nine runners to compete at the Hornet Jamboree in Sacramento, Calif., and captured the top five spots at that meet.
Pieter Gagnon, Hassan Mead and Andrew Larsen finished first, second and third, respectively, all with times of 19 minutes, 28 seconds.
Erik Truedson finished fourth with a time of 19 minutes, 33 seconds and Marcus Paulson crossed in the fifth position with a time of 19 minutes, 34 seconds.
In its entirety, this placing was exactly what head coach Steve Plasencia was looking for out of his runners.
“We wanted them to control their run here early in the season,” Plasencia said. “At the one-mile mark they were probably in the 15th to 20th position and in the second mile they were moving up a little bit. After that they started to assert themselves a little more.”
Plasencia said he stressed running in a pack in the first meet of the season not only as a way to maintain control, but also as a way for his runners to push each other.
“I saw guys kind of tested themselves a little bit towards the end of the race,” he said. “I think it was definitely a cooperative effort up front.”
Though there were glimpses of brilliance at the Hornet Jamboree, the team members competing at the Oz Memorial were not to be outdone.
John Simons and Adam Zutz finished first and second running unattached for Minnesota, and Matt Volz placed third. Volz officially won the race, because he was in uniform and Simons and Zutz were not.
This race exemplified the depth of the Gophers as their top-nine runners were not even in uniform at the Oz.
“Basically what we showed today is if you take nine guys away we can still have a pretty solid group and so we’re obviously very excited about the overall depth of this team,” assistant coach Paul Thornton said.
Even with the early success, Plasencia said he knows the season is still very young.
“We’re feeling good about where the team is right now,” Plasencia said. “It is so early so the true measure for our team comes later in the year, but as a preliminary signal I’m really happy with how the guys worked out over the summer and where they’re at right now.”
Women’s team dominates at the Oz
The Gophers’ women’s team showcased their depth this weekend at the Oz Memorial.
Minnesota recorded a perfect score of 15, taking the top 10 spots in the competition.
However, the sweltering heat somewhat overshadowed the meet.
“It was was about 15 degrees warmer than normal. It was about 90 out there and that is a little bit much for cross country,” head coach Gary Wilson said.
Steph Price and Missa Varpness started off the race and quickly began to distance themselves from the competition.
By the three-mile mark both Price and Varpness, running together, had a significant lead and it seemed they would coast to victory.
Price crossed the finish line first, but Varpness was unable to finish the race due to apparent heat exhaustion. She collapsed about 200 meters shy of the finish line before medical personnel tended to her.
Ashlie Decker took second with Varpness going down. She finished the race strong and Wilson said the true sophomore continues to improve.
“We can see the confidence coming in and she is getting better every week,” Wilson said. “She is a very talented kid so it’s not a surprise, but sometimes really talented kids can go south really quick. She is doing a great job.”
While Wilson was satisfied with his team’s overall performance, he said he thinks people pushed themselves a little too hard in the heat.
“People gave everything they had today,” he said. “It’s one thing to be tough, but it’s another thing to be stupid.”
The Gophers will host the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday Sept. 24.
“Overall it was a good start and the Griak [Invitational] will be another level,” Wilson said.
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