The Gophers will showcase their younger racers this weekend at Jack’s Twilight Run.
In preparation for the Big Ten championships in early November, Minnesota’s top runners will be resting, but head coach Sarah Hopkins said she expects younger team members to compete at a high level.
“We do have a really young group, and I think with a young group comes that desire to really prove yourself,” she said. “I think that’ll add a little fuel to the fire.”
Hopkins also said she expects the younger runners to potentially outrun their fellow upperclassman teammates.
“It’s good for the freshmen to have a little push to try and beat some upperclassmen,” Hopkins said, “and it’s really good for the upperclassmen because they don’t want to lose to freshmen.”
Though there is competition between the grades on the team, Hopkins pointed to upperclassman Stacey Swatek as someone who has been a leader on the second team.
“A lot of times the upperclassmen may try to protect their spots, but these guys have done a great job of integrating the new people and not just followed old pecking orders,” Hopkins said.
The second team also looks to redshirt freshman Maddie Strandemo to be a leading voice for the group.
Strandemo acknowledges the importance of doing well in small meets, like Jack’s Twilight Run, in order to compete in bigger races in the future.
“It’s what we pretend is our championship season,” Strandemo said, “because in years to come, some of us will be on the Big Ten team, and we will need to be ready to go at this time of year. It is a small meet, but we still need to be running hard.”
For the young runners such as Strandemo and redshirt sophomore Taylor Mikkalson, the youth of the team is huge in its movement forward.
“The freshmen and sophomores are really coming together,” Mikkalson said.
Hopkins said she anticipates that the meet will still be competitive for the young runners to make their mark for the coming years.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that those freshmen are going to be walking on the line, really anxious to beat people they maybe weren’t [able to beat] earlier in the season, or try to make a statement for next year or the year after,” Hopkins said.