As the Minnesota cross country teams prepare for the upcoming championship season, the Gophers host two important meets for its program: Jack's Twilight Run and Rocky's Run.
Jack's Twilight Run took place last Friday, and Rocky's Run is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 10. Both meets are open to the public to register and race at Les Bolstad Golf Course. Women's head coach Sarah Hopkins said the two meets give people an idea of what cross country is like.
"I think it’s a fun way to expose people [to cross country]," Hopkins said. "There’s so many 5Ks on the roads and stuff that people do every weekend, and it adds a little twist to be on a cross country course. It’s a good realization too for people to know how hard that course is and how cross country is different from your local 5K."
Many of Minnesota's top runners do not compete in either meet in order to stay fresh for upcoming meets. However, Hopkins said both meets are helpful for developing runners to continue to train and prepare for running later in the season.
"We try as best we can to get people’s bodies used to racing all the way through the end," Hopkins said. "So we try to keep everyone in a similar pattern so that no matter what races they’re running at each year, they’re kind of going the same amount of time and learning how to race a little more fatigued at the end of the season."
According to Hopkins, some runners have breakthrough performances at either Jack's Twilight Run or Rocky's Run. She said it is a good way for runners to build confidence heading into track and field or the following cross country season.
"Team-wise, the biggest thing for us is keeping our non-Big Ten group active all the way through," Hopkins said. "And every year without fail there’s always people that ran at [the meets] last year that run at the national meet the next year ... Every year we get some breakthroughs with some kids running some fast times, and it trickles into everything else."
Jack's Twilight Run and Rocky's Run both honor former members of Minnesota's cross country program. Jack Johnson was a longtime equipment manager who passed away from cancer in 2006. Rochelle "Rocky" Racette was a Gophers runner who died in a car accident in 1981. The meets fund scholarships awarded to different runners from the program.
Redshirt freshman Libby Halbmaier won the meet on the women's side with a personal-best time of 21:25 in the six-kilometer race. Brandon Kotek, a member of the public, was the men's champion with a time of 20:31.
The Gopher men and women are back in action next weekend for the start of the championship season. Minnesota will travel to Columbus, Ohio for the Big Ten Championships on Sunday, Nov. 3.