After a three-week period between meets, Minnesota's cross country program is back in action Saturday, Sept. 28 for the 34th annual Roy Griak Invitational.
The women's team is looking to repeat the success they had at this meet last season. Then-junior Bethany Hasz finished first overall on the women's side, leading the women's team to its first team victory at the meet since 2008. Hasz was the program's first individual champion at the meet since 2009.
Women's head coach Sarah Hopkins has used this time as one last training block for the team before the season begins to ramp up. Hopkins said the three weeks of training has helped her gauge how physically prepared her runners are.
But what might be even more important to her is being able to see how the team reacts to the pressure that comes with competing at the Griak. According to Hopkins, the meet can be difficult for runners because it is Minnesota's largest home meet of the season. Les Bolstad Golf Course, the location of the meet, can also be physically grueling with several hills along the course.
In order to combat the pressure, Hopkins wants the team to approach the meet as if it were their first mid-term exam for a college course. She said that while the first "mid-term" meet is important, it does not completely dictate their final grade for the season. After the Griak, the team has two important meets in October at Notre Dame and Wisconsin before competing in the Big Ten Championships on November 3.
"These races don’t have to go perfectly," Hopkins said. "We would like them to go well so we don’t have to dig out of a hole. But we don’t need perfection at Griak, we don’t need perfection at Notre Dame. We need to get better each week."
Some of the teams participating in the Griak include North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Duke's men's team and Gonzaga's women's team. Of all the participating teams, Minnesota is the second highest ranked team on both the men's and women's side of the competition.
The meet will start at 9:30 a.m. with the Division I men's race followed by the Division I women's race at 10:20 a.m. There will also be two Division II and III races as well as four high school races.
"I think it’s going to be an awesome opportunity to just really see where we are," Hopkins said. "Griak is really the first time that the lights are really going to come on and we are going to see who’s going to step into those roles. I’m just excited to see where we’re at."