On Friday, the University of Minnesota men’s and women’s cross country teams raced at Les Bolstad Golf Course on a warm September night in the annual Oz Memorial meet. No. 24 Minnesota women’s cross country team finished with a team score of 15 points to win the title.
Led by junior Megan Hasz in a time of 21:43.2, the top seven finishers were Hasz, Patty O’Brien, Anastasia Korzenowski, Molly Eastman, Elyse Prescott, Zetta Mason and Jaycie Thomsen. Bethany Hasz did not compete due to discomfort in her knee, said Gophers head coach Sarah Hopkins.
Minnesota graduated some top runners from a year ago with Madeline Strandemo, Bailey Ness and Courtney Alama leaving – none of whom will be easy to replace from an athletic or leadership standpoint.
Nonetheless, four of the Gophers' top seven runners from 2017 returned and Hopkins is optimistic about the promise her young runners are beginning to show. In particular, on Friday Korzenowski and Thomsen placed in third place and seventh place, respectively.
“Our team motto for the year is to focus on 24 hours at a time, knowing that if we do that over and over again, the long-term stuff will come,” said Hopkins. The Gophers hope that by paying attention to small details, their larger dreams and goals can be realized.
Describing the team, Megan Hasz said, “We set goals before races as either ‘ocean floor:’ being the bare minimum of what we want to do, ‘sea level:' being not guaranteed but very much in reach, and ‘mountain-top:' being what is possible if everything falls our way.”
These "mountain-top" goals are entirely achievable and they are what the runners ideally want to do, she said. For Hasz herself, her mountain-top goal is to win the Big Ten Championships, a meet that she took fifth place in last season.
On the men’s side, Owen Hoeft took second place overall for the Gophers by finishing in 20:18.5 in a meet where the men’s team did not race all of its top athletes. Other top 20 finishers included Joey Duerr (third), Jack Manderscheid (fourth), Connor Olson (sixth), Alex Plasencia (ninth), Jordan MacIntosh (13th) and Dawson LaRance (14th). The Gophers took the team title with 24 points, followed by the Drake Bulldogs, Minnesota State Mavericks and Concordia St. Paul Golden Bears.
Next week, the men’s team will travel to Lincoln, Nebraska for the Greeno/Dirksen Invite, a preview of the course that this year’s Big Ten Championships will be raced on. The women’s team has a week off from competition before racing at the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown meet in Boston.
The athletics department recently announced that it is combining its men and women’s track & field and cross country programs under a single coaching staff headed by director Matt Bingle. This decision was made to align Minnesota's programs with the growing number of consolidated Power 5 programs. Additionally, with the recent completion of a brand-new outdoor track and field stadium and the scheduled renovation of the indoor Field House, the Gophers program is entering a new era.