After resting its top runners last weekend, the Gophers women’s cross country team should be fresh for the Big Ten championships in Iowa City, Iowa, this Sunday.
Head coach Sarah Hopkins said the meet is going to be important, but she doesn’t want her runners to overthink it.
“A lot of doing well is just relaxing and letting your body do what it’s capable of doing. It’s all about perspective and knowing that this isn’t the be-all, end-all.’ If they build it up into something more than it is, that’s when you have some problems,” Hopkins said.
Redshirt junior Becca Dyson said the field, which includes No. 1 Michigan State and No. 4 Michigan, will be very competitive.
Last year’s team took third place at the Big Ten championships.
The year’s group is more unexperienced, as only Dyson and redshirt junior Liz Berkholtz ran at the meet last year.
Minnesota will send four underclassmen to the meet.
Dyson said if the young group can work together, it should put up a good performance.
“We’re looking for them to work together as a group and to push themselves. I think they’re fully capable. … They just have to have a little belief in themselves,” Dyson said.
Redshirt junior Kaila Urick said people overlook the team because of its inexperience.
But despite that, she said the Gophers are going to perform well.
“A lot of people didn’t think we’d be doing as well as last year. [That is] kind of fueling a lot of us on the team,” Urick said. “We’re going to come to Big Tens and run a lot better than people expect.”
Men’s team also heads to Iowa
The men’s team will seek to overcome what head coach Steve Plasencia called an “off” performance at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational two weeks ago.
Plasencia called the meet “another challenge.” But, like the women, he said he doesn’t want to make the meet bigger than what it is.
“You [have to] let the chips fall where they will. I don’t think we do anything special … just go out there and control all the factors you can control,” Plasencia said.
The Gophers finished fourth at the Big Ten championships last year, and redshirt junior Aaron Bartnik said the Gophers must have a good team performance to have a podium finish this season.
“We have nine guys going down there to race, and any one of those could be in our scoring five. We have a lot of leadership in Blayne Dulian, a lot of experience with Christian Skaret, and a lot of young talent in Obsa [Ali] and Charlie Lawrence, and out of everyone there, I feel confident that we’re going to perform well,” Bartnik said.
Redshirt junior Adam Zutz said he thinks the youth of the team will put up a good performance at the meet.
“Our younger guys have shown they can handle the competition and put together a good race. That’s encouraging for us older guys to see the young guys running well,” Zutz said.
Bartnik said the team will come out fast and hard at the meet.
“We want to go out there like we have something to prove,” he said.