Earlier in the cross country season, Minnesota women's head coach Sarah Hopkins outlined how she wanted the season to go for her runners.
Hopkins compared the team's three regular season meets — the Roy Griak Invitational, Joe Piane Notre Dame Invitational and Nuttycombe Invitational — to midterm exams. While these tests are important, they are not the be-all, end-all for determining a final grade. Hopkins said it was important for her team to continue to build off each meet and be healthy and prepared for the championship season.
"Once we get into the Big Ten meet, the regional meet and hopefully the national meet, that’s when we want to be firing on all cylinders," Hopkins said. "But we don’t need perfection at Griak, we don’t need perfection at Notre Dame, we need to get better each week. We need to learn something each week that’s going to help us ... [so] we’re really in a place where we’re firing on all cylinders and got confidence going into the postseason."
The championship season for the Gophers began this past weekend at the Big Ten Championship in Columbus, Ohio. At the beginning of the season, redshirt sophomore Tate Sweeney said one of the team goals was to finish in the top five or six in the conference. Minnesota came close to achieving it, finishing seventh with 145 points, one point away from fifth place and seven points away from fourth place.
While the team did not accomplish its Big Ten conference goal, many of the team's goals are still achievable. One of those goals is qualifying for the NCAA Championship meet for the third consecutive season. The Gophers will compete in the NCAA Midwest Regional to try to keep their season alive.
It is crucial that the team is firing on all cylinders, like Hopkins mentioned, for the team to advance to the national championship meet. Minnesota did appear to be healthy and prepared for the Big Ten Championship meet, as three of the Gophers' top five runners finished with personal records in a six-kilometer race.
Hopkins stressed resting, recovering and rebooting to her runners immediately after the Big Ten Championship race to be prepared for the Midwest Regional. She said it is important for the team to remain focused because only the top two teams from each region automatically qualify for the NCAA Championship meet. Minnesota is currently ranked third in its region behind Illinois and Oklahoma State.
"We’ve got to get back to work," Hopkins said. "I told them it feels like the Big Ten meet is the end of the season but in a lot of ways the Big Ten meet is the halfway point in an emotional sense. We’ve really got to make sure that our emotional gas tank is full heading into these next three weeks."