The Gophers men’s cross country team placed seventh Friday at the Adidas Invitational in Madison, Wis., its final meet before the Big Ten Championships on Oct. 30.
It was a meet peppered with ranked talent as the field featured 21 of the top 30 teams in the country.
Hassan Mead finished fifth overall with a time of 23 minutes, 31 seconds.
Lawi Lalang of Arizona won the race with a time of 23 minutes, 11 seconds.
Lalang also won the Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 24 when he finished 33 seconds ahead of Mead.
Mead, however, was only 20 seconds off of Lalang’s pace at the Adidas Invitational.
“I feel great right now — [my] body is healthy, the legs are good,” Mead said in a release after the Adidas Invitational. “I’m just excited and glad to be back running.”
The No. 17 Gophers finished ahead of four teams ranked higher than them in the national rankings Friday. As such, Minnesota gained crucial points toward the Nov. 21 NCAA Championships by beating teams ranked in different regions of the country.
“I think it was a good performance,” men’s head coach Steve Plasencia said. “One of the goals was not necessarily to beat ranked teams, but beat teams that were ranked toward the top in their respective regions.
“That’s really important how you beat guys who qualify for the national meet automatically if you don’t qualify for the national meet automatically. Those kinds of wins will be helpful for us down the road.”
If Minnesota doesn’t finish first or second in its region, it will rely on an at-large bid. Beating those other top-tier teams will help get them that bid.
Pieter Gagnon and Andrew Larson were the Gophers’ second and third finishers on the team and placed 51st and 52nd, respectively.
“When you say 51st and 52nd place you think, ‘Oh gosh they were a ways back,’” Plasencia said. “But in a field when you have as strong as that field was, those guys ran well.”
While the Gophers’ top runners ran in Madison, Derek Storkel, Blayne Dulian and Drew Paradis competed at the Jim Drews Invite in Lacrosse, Wis.
Minnesota did not have enough team finishers to acquire a team score in the Jim Drews Invite.
“The most important race for the overall program was the Adidas Invitational and I was very pleased with [our] performances there,” Plasencia said. “If we can perform on that level and increase it moving forward we will be happy with the result.”
Price finishes 16th for women
For the women’s cross country team, Friday’s Adidas Invitational in Madison, Wis., was all about how it started.
Minnesota didn’t start fast enough on the flat course, and by the 500-meter mark, it was too far back to catch up, according to women’s head coach Gary Wilson.
“They all knew that they had gone out a little too slow and had to fight up through and when they got done I think they were like, ‘I wish I could run this again,’” Wilson said.
Steph Price placed 16th, but Minnesota finished 20th overall.
“I am disappointed because you have to mentally be ready to go all the time and I told them that,” Wilson. “I said, ‘This is the best thing that could have happened to us right now because you got slapped across the face.’ We just got slapped across the face and now you go, ‘OK. Now I know what I have to do.’”
Molly Kayfes was the team’s second finisher on the team as the freshman continued to impress the coaches.
Missa Varpness, on the other hand, struggled.
She was the No. 2 runner from last year and going into the season, but has not lived up to those expectations.
Varpness finished 295th overall and seventh on the team.
“She’s letting her physical problems that she had back at the Oz Memorial affect her mentally,” Wilson said. “She knows that and she’s working on that and she’s going to be just fine.
“She will bounce back at the Big Ten for sure. I have no doubt about it.”
Although the Gophers underperformed at the Adidas Invitational, the team placed second Saturday with 58 points at the Tori Neubauer Invitational in La Crosse, Wis., with its second-stringers.
“They ran the best race that I’ve seen them on all year,” Wilson said. “They were focused, they were engaged, and they were up where they should have been.
“If our group [Friday in Madison] would have been that focused and engaged at the beginning we would have had a different race yesterday.”
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