A University alumnus may have been wearing green instead of the usual maroon and gold at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational over the weekend, but his experience with the Gophers helped propel him to the second-fastest time in the 5,000-meter run this year.
As a professional with the Oregon Track Club Elite, Hassan Mead ran 13:02.80 in the 5,000-meter run in Palo Alto, Calif., six-hundredths of a second behind the first-place finisher. Mead finished more than five seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
“To be in there and be in the front was definitely a good accomplishment this early in the season,” he said.
Mead competed for the Gophers men’s cross country and track and field teams from 2007-11 and set various school records during his career.
Despite an Achilles injury and a collapsed lung that interrupted his college career for more than a year, Mead made a name for himself on the University circuit.
His latest time will place him firmly on the map, but Mead said he knows he still has a lot to improve.
“I’ll definitely be more known now than before,” he said, “[but] you’ve got to run much faster than that to be in that top 50, top 10 in the world.”
Gophers head coach Steve Plasencia was a professional distance runner for many years and competed in the Olympics twice. He said very few runners can break 13 minutes in the 5,000-meter run and estimated that Mead’s time would rank somewhere in the top 10 all-time for Americans.
“We’re all very proud of him, and I’m happy that there’s more in him,” Plasencia said. “He continues to show that. That’s really a world-class time.”
Minnesota senior John Simons competed in the same event at the meet, placing eighth in the second section at 13:39.11.
Simons said he was happy with his first time of the season but knows he can run faster.
Plasencia said Simons shouldn’t be disappointed by his result and said he thinks the senior is in a good place with the postseason approaching.
Minnesota’s past and present intersected the day before the race when Simons and Mead shared a warm-up run.
“He’s one of the guys that has definitely inspired me to continue doing it,” Simons said. “I’m hoping to eventually get to where he’s at.”
Mead said he owes much of his success to his time at Minnesota. He said Plasencia used his own professional experience to develop him in “the right way.”
“The University of Minnesota played a great role in where I am today because that’s where I basically learned,” Mead said. “[Plasencia] made me as good as I [am] to be able to explore the next level.”