Weather forecasts on the night before race day predicted three to five inches of snow in Madison, Wisconsin for this year's NCAA Cross Country Championships. The Minnesota women’s cross country team had raced on Wisconsin's course earlier in the season, however not in the snowy conditions that they'd face on Saturday.
“It’s honestly the first meet I’ve ever coached in that kind of snow,” said women’s team head coach Sarah Hopkins afterwards. “We’ve had snow … and I think it obviously has an effect, but I don’t think it’s much different than maybe a muddy course. I don’t think it really threw anybody a huge loop in terms of performance, but it definitely had a different feel to it than most national championships.”
Braving these elements, 31 of the best cross country teams in the nation faced off at Wisconsin’s Zimmer Championship Course for the last race of their seasons.
“Everybody that makes this meet is good, so wherever you finish at this meet you’re doing something,” said coach Hopkins. “I thought on a great day we could probably be between 20 and 25, we were a little short to that, but I’m really proud of the efforts and proud of the battle and I hope we learned a lot from it.”
Led by Bethany Hasz's 49th place finish, the Gophers placed 29th as a team.
“We were in 31st at the 2K and battled up, and kept fighting all the way through the race,” Hopkins said. “We had four kids at this meet who have never been to this meet before, two of those being freshman, so it’s a lot to learn.”
The Gophers have made it to the national championship meet in 13 of its last 14 seasons. In 2017, Bethany Hasz finished in 70th place while her twin sister Megan Hasz took 74th. This year, conditions on the course were different and Bethany finished in a time of 20:43.49, while Megan was behind her in 21:07.49 for a 105th place finish.
“Overall I was pretty happy with it. It wasn’t quite what I wanted but I can’t complain,” Bethany Hasz said afterwards.
Hopkins said she was pleased with the performances of her athletes and is excited about the team’s future.
“Bethany was right in there with an All-American, and any time you’re a top-50 kid in this meet you’re doing something. There’s a lot of people that have great pedigrees that were behind her,” Hopkins said.
Behind the Hasz sisters for the Gophers were senior Patty O’Brien in 212th place, followed by Abby Kohut-Jackson in 215th place. Among the fastest runners in the country, Anastasia Korzenowski, Jaycie Thomsen and Molly Eastman rounded out Minnesota’s runners in 230th, 234th and 238th place respectively.
“What makes me really excited for the future down the road is that this is a core of kids who are going to be together for the next couple of years, and there is a lot of really great pieces here,” Hopkins said. “You've got to be at this meet for the first time and see it and feel it, to understand what it’s all about, in order to get them into that next level.”