The Gophers' cross country program had a successful start to its season as the men's and women's teams both finished in first place at the Oz Memorial on Friday, Sept. 6.
Both teams are also in the middle of a three-week period until the next meet of the season: the 34th annual Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 28 at the Les Bolstad Golf Course. Minnesota is looking to use this time to recover from the challenging offseason training and focus on the remainder of the season.
Despite the early season success, neither team is satisfied with the results from the Oz Memorial. Instead, the Gophers are focused on the goals set in the offseason rather than being complacent. Women's Head Coach Sarah Hopkins wants to remind the team that nothing is guaranteed for the rest of the season.
"I think we took a good step today," Hopkins said after the Oz Memorial. "That doesn’t mean we can settle here, but we took a good step today that I think will help us going into [the Roy] Griak [Invitational]."
At the beginning of the season, co-captain Tate Sweeney said one of the goals for the women's team was to qualify again for the NCAA championship meet in Indiana. The women's team has advanced to the meet 13 times in the last 14 seasons. This would be the third consecutive season the team qualified for the NCAA championship.
The women's team is currently ranked 25th in the country and third in the Midwest Region. According to Sweeney, another goal for the women's team is to have a top-five finish in the Big Ten Conference. As of the first set of rankings, the Gophers are the fifth-ranked team in the conference.
The women's team is not the only team focused on reaching the NCAA championship meet. After securing his first career win at the Oz Memorial and leading the Gophers to a first place finish, redshirt junior Owen Hoeft said that qualifying for the NCAA championship is something that the men's team has been focused on throughout the summer. The men's team has not advanced to the championship meet since 2015, when they finished 19th.
Men's Head Coach Steve Plasencia said after the win at the Oz Memorial, it will be interesting to see how the team does when the temperature begins to fall, and the Gophers compete against Big Ten opponents. Plasencia thought some of the runners at the first meet were fatigued by warmer temperatures and the difficult offseason training.
Both coaches were impressed with how their individual teams began the season and look to use the weeks between competitions to train for upcoming meets. But that does not mean either coach or team is satisfied with the results from the opening meet of the season.