CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — One of several favorites to win the individual Big Ten Championships, Hassan Mead took fourth Sunday. His high finish earned him First-Team All-Big Ten honors and led the Gophers to a tie for third place with Michigan.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, he crossed the line in a Badger sandwich, as first-place Wisconsin remarkably owned the first, second, third, fifth and sixth place finishers.
It was just the latest demonstration of the Badgers’ conference dominance of the sport. Wisconsin has won 45 Big Ten championships and Sunday’s win was its 13th consecutive.
Mead had a 30-meter lead at the 4,000-meter mark and controlled the race in the middle portion. He said after the race, however, that he separated himself from the pack too early, as Wisconsin’s convoy was able to track him down.
“I knew they weren’t that far back and 30 meters isn’t that big [a lead]. I knew they’d come; it was just a matter of when,” Mead said.
Head coach Steve Plasencia said Mead may have broken too early.
“He tried to make a break from the group and he gave it a good shot. He said he had the wind at his back and felt good at that moment and he went.”
It was Mead’s lowest finish in the four years he’s run the conference championship race. He is a two-time winner of the event.
“I’m not elated and I don’t think the team is elated by any means, but a lot of people picked us in third before the meet,” Plasencia said.
After Mead, the Gophers’ finishers were Pieter Gagnon (16th), Andrew Larsen (17th), Marcus Paulson (29th) and Erik Truedson (38th).
Larsen made a late push in the last 2,000 meters to pass several runners and cut some points off Minnesota’s team score. That move saved the team from dropping to fourth place.
“This is just another meet on the way toward November 21 [NCAA championships],” Mead said. “This one is a privilege but the next one we have to earn it. We have to run a smarter race, including myself.”
The team will run in the NCAA Midwest Regional in two weeks to attempt to qualify for the NCAA championships.
Women’s team 5th
Senior Steph Price earned her second straight All-Big Ten First-Team honor Sunday with a fifth-place finish. Her low score helped the Gophers finish fifth as a team.
“We were a little disappointed; we were hoping to be right up in the hunt,” Price said.
Price took second last year and was the favorite to win the race because the runner who beat her last year graduated.
“You come off of getting second a year ago and in the back of your mind you think first is the only way to go up, but you’ve got to look at the people that finished ahead of me,” Price said.
Head coach Gary Wilson estimated there were between 12 and 18 future All-Americans in the field.
“I ran the race I think I could today, but it wasn’t my best race,” Price said.
Penn State’s Caitlin Lane won the race and broke from the pack around the 4,000-meter mark.
“I saw [Price] fall back a little bit and you could tell by [4,000 meters] she wasn’t going to win,” Wilson said.
“We’re proud of the way she ran and she put herself in there and that’s all she wanted to do today,” assistant coach Sarah Hesser said.
Hesser said Price may have put too much pressure on herself to try to win.
Molly Kayfes (19th), Ashlie Decker (26th), Maggie Bollig (42nd) and Katie Moraczewski (48th) rounded out the scoring team for Minnesota.
“We fought today, we just were not quite up there far enough,” Wilson said.
Moraczewski fell down in the first 200 meters of the race, but still recovered nicely to place fifth for the Gophers. Her falling might not have affected the final results though, because Minnesota finished 51 spots out of fourth place.
Missa Varpness continued her disappointing season, as she finished 95th outof 105 runners. She was the second runner on the team a year ago, but Wilson said she is dealing with a mental block, which is impeding her ability.
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