We were especially impressed by the University of Minnesota's men's distance and middle distance runners at last weekend's Big Ten Championships. Three members of Steve Plasencia's crew earned Big Ten titles. Hans Storvick won the 800 meters, Hassan Mead won the 5000m, and Chris Rombough, a former Big Ten cross country champ, won the 10,000m.
We asked Plasencia for his impressions of his champions and their victories.
DtB: Three Big Ten champions in the middle and long distance events, how surprising was that to you?
Plasencia: Chris, Hans, and Hassan have all been having very good seasons up until this point so it is not like their races just came from nowhere. But competition is tough in the Big Ten, so to have them all win in the same meet was about as positive as it could have played out.
DtB: Can you describe the basics of how the three of them won their races?
Plasencia: Chris followed a slow but uneven pace until between 6,000 and 7,000m, then made a move with a 66 lap after which he did not feel good but had two Wisconsin runners who clung behind him not allowing him out of the lead. With under 1,200m remaining, Landon Peacock of Wisconsin made a big move with around a 30 second 200. At that point it looked like Chris might be 4th with three Wisconsin runners ahead. With around 700m remaining it became apparent Peacock had over-extended himself and that those behind had a chance to catch him. Chris dug in and with around 300m to go he assumed the lead in fought off a challenge from Andrew Lacy down the stretch glancing over his shoulder a couple of times in the last 50m. It was an exciting race.
Hans wanted to make a move around 500m and use his strength over the last 300. As it turned out coming off of the break line he and his teammate Logan Stroman were at the lead. Hans continued to lead through a 54.3 at 400m. On the backstretch, Adam Hairston from Iowa challenged but Strovick held him off and continued to lead all the way to the finish. It was a strong race which he led wire to wire.
Hassan was the only contender in the 5,000m who was not trying to complete some sort of a double in the meet. Thus we wanted the pace to be honest. Trent Hoerr from Illinois set an early pace with Chris Rombough following 10m behind and Hassan back at in the front of the main group. After 800m Rombough assumed the lead. There was a strong head wind on the backstretch. Rombough led for the next six to seven laps with his final lap in the lead being 65. Excluding Hassan, the rest of the field was gapped by 30-40m. At that point Hassan took over and ran laps of 67, 68 and continued to extend his lead to about 60m. He held that until the finish running 65.2 on his last 400 well clear of anyone else. It also was a fun race to watch, particularly if you are a Minnesota fan.
DtB: Tell us a little something about each of them that explains why they're having the success they are?
Plasencia: They each are willing to do what it takes to be good runners. For Hans that means being able to handle tough speedwork. He is very strong and tolerates a lot of work on his hard days. Chris and Hassan train together a lot, along with Mike Torchia and Forrest Tahdooahnippah. They seem to enjoy their running and also are not adverse to taking a hard workout on the track, roads or on grass. While different in their degree of tension around racing, all focus well and pay attention to details in race preparation. They usually come ready to race.
DtB: Regionals are up next. What will be the keys for success for the three of them there?
Plasencia: I haven’t really thought about it much yet. But again being able to compete in strong competition, in weather conditions that might or might not be ideal, and adjusting to whatever situation presents itself, will be huge in any success we might have.