All-American Hassan Mead made his return to the Roy Griak Invitational this weekend, finishing 10 seconds off the meet record of 23 minutes, 39 seconds.
Unfortunately for Mead, Arizona freshman Lawi Lalang ran in the same race.
Mead was looking to recapture the title he never officially lost after winning the race in 2009 and sitting idle due to injury last year.
Lalang jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, shattering the meet record with a time of 23 minutes, 16 seconds.
“I was with him until we hit about the [2,000-meter] mark,” Mead said. “Every stride he took was like three feet longer than mine and that gap kind of kept adding up,” Mead said.
“I was expecting him to do something like that, but I didn’t expect him to [break the meet record].”
Mead finished third overall with a time of 23 minutes, 49 seconds.
“Certainly at home Hassan wanted to give it a good shot, so he went with [Lalang],” men’s head coach Steve Plasencia said of Mead chasing the front-runner. “We’re really happy with Hassan and it looks like he’s back in good form.”
Mead said he felt good on the course and was satisfied with his overall performance.
“In terms of the time I ran, today it was good,” he said. “I came in here with excitement and right now I’m excited looking forward for the rest of the season.”
Aside from the All-American Mead, the rest of the team did its part to secure a third-place team finish for Minnesota.
Pieter Gagnon finished 19th and three other Minnesota runners finished in the top 60 at the Griak. This was good for an overall team score of 153.
The Gophers finished behind North Carolina State and Portland.
“I’m happy with the way it went,” Plasencia said. “Some of us got out a little bit too hard and some of them dropped back late in the race, but there were some really good efforts.
“Even some of those guys that went out hard [early], regained their composure and got up again toward the end.”
Plasencia said although the team accomplished the goal to be a trophy team at the Griak, there are still things they took away from the meet.
“We need to continue to work, but I feel we’re in a good place for this time in the season,” he said. “We got some depth which we haven’t had every year. I think this is a little bit of a fun team and there’s a good feeling and optimism among the guys about what we can do.”
Plasencia’s training regimen has historically aimed to have runners peaking around the time of the Big Ten championships.
Price finishes fifth at the Griak
Steph Price finished fifth at this year’s Griak, failing to improve on her second place finish from last season. The team also finished fifth as a unit.
In the eyes of her coaches, however, Price is where she needs to be and the scoring group is ahead of last year’s pace.
“[Price] is about right where she was last year but is very much fresher,” assistant coach Sarah Hesser said. “She’s not quite on her game yet and that’s on purpose so that when we get to the Big Ten meet, the regional [championships] and nationals she will really be ready to roll.
Even with her conservative approach to preserve her energy for the continued grind of the season, Price still managed a fifth place finish in a field head coach Gary Wilson described as “great.”
Price finished 21 seconds out of first place with a time of 20 minutes, 51 seconds.
“I feel like I had a really strong effort, but am nowhere near where I can be at the end of the season,” Price said. “It’s exciting to see I can run close to where I ran last year, but still feel like I have a lot more developing to do.”
Ashlie Decker was the second finisher on the team for the second consecutive meet after Missa Varpness fell toward the back of the pack.
Decker finished 31st overall at the Griak. Varpness was the Gophers’ fifth finisher and 55th overall.
“I told her, ‘Be about 30 to 40 places off Steph,’ and she did exactly what I told her, but it was still a little too far up,” Wilson said of Varpness. “She’s got to start a little bit slower because she is such a competitor.”
Molly Kayfes and Laura Docherty rounded out the top five finishers for Minnesota at the Griak Invitational.
“Our whole group — where we are one to five this year opposed to where we were last year is just phenomenal,” Hesser said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the girls right now, but we will use this as another stepping stone to keep getting better.”
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