Every year, the goal of the Roy Griak Invitational is to provide the competitors with the best cross country experience of their life, according to women’s head coach Gary Wilson.
This task, however, gets more difficult each year as the meet continues to grow at a rapid pace.
What started in 1985 as a small tribute meet to running legend Roy Griak has morphed into one of the largest cross country meets in the nation.
At this year’s Griak there were more than 4,100 competitors from Division I, II and III, as well as a plethora of local high schools.
Still, amid the 370 teams and their tents along the fairways of Les Bolstad Golf Course, there was a sense of organized chaos.
Though Wilson is the meet director and co-founder of the Griak, he said those primarily responsible for the coordination are assistant coach Sarah Hesser and administrative specialist Jo Rider.
Hesser serves as the high school coordinator, and she said she tries to make this the best meet possible for everyone who comes out.
She added that she enjoys the coordination of this meet because it serves as a way to give back.
“It’s a labor of love,” Hesser said. “I absolutely love this race. I ran in the race as a high school kid, so just to watch the high school races and remember back to when I was in high school — how cool this event was — just makes it so fun to help organize.”
Rider has helped organize the Griak since 1998 and said it has changed immensely since then.
“It has gotten so huge. Back when we first started in ’98 we didn’t have [computer] chips and this high-tech stuff. It’s been a big, big, big change,” Rider said, referring to the computer-assisted tracking of finishers.
“When we first started we probably had 50 college and university teams total, and I don’t think high school was involved in the beginning. When the high school meet started we only had one girl and one boy race. Now we have two races for both of them.”
With about 500 entries more than last year’s Griak, this growth does not look to be slowing.
“It’s not getting any smaller, that’s for sure,” Hesser said. “It’s not about the University of Minnesota. It’s about having a good cross country meet.”
North Carolina State won the men’s meet Saturday. Iowa State captured the title on the women’s side.
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