The final installment of GopherSports.com's indoor track preview series focuses on the distance group. Minnesota's season begins this Saturday with meets at North Dakota State and at home in the University of Minnesota Fieldhouse.
After a 22nd-place finish at the NCAA Cross Country Championships, the Golden Gopher distance runners have been transitioning from running on outdoor courses to a flat indoor track. Sophomore Molly Kayfes and junior Laura Docherty were consistently the team's top two runners throughout the cross country season. In addition to the Gophers' NCAA and Big Ten competitors, a lot of runners with shorter distance focuses will enter the mix during track season. Coach Sarah Hesser sat down with GopherSports.com to talk about the distance group.
GopherSports: Talk a little about the transition from cross country to indoor track.
Sarah Hesser: The most important thing between the national meet and now is that the girls got a nice two-week break where they really got away from the sport for a little while, which I think is important to mentally refresh. The cross season can be kind of long and mentally challenging, just to keep your emotions going at that point. To take a little break is really important.
And then, basically from the time of their break until now, they've been doing a lot of base work. They've been getting miles in. They've been doing maybe one or two workouts a week, but nothing too crazy. The way we look at it is, the indoor season is really only about six weeks long. It's really hard to crunch everything in, especially after cross country. It's hard to then peak for the indoor season, come back down, and peak again for outdoor. We try to look at it as one elongated season. We want to run well at the indoor Big Ten meet and maybe get some people to nationals, but we also want to still have legs and be running our fastest in May and June.
As a distance coach, you have to be a little bit careful, coming out of that intense fall, in how you build for the indoor and outdoor seasons. But we've always had people that can perform well indoors and keep the momentum going into outdoor. It helps that sometimes the outdoor events are a bit different than the indoor events, so you can train a little differently and adjust going from indoors to outdoors.
Having the great fall that the girls had, they've got a lot of confidence and that's the biggest thing for indoors--knowing that they're fit, knowing that all the stuff they did all fall is going to build into their indoor season. It doesn't just disappear and start over.
GopherSports: Who besides the top cross country group should we watch for in the indoor season?
Sarah Hesser: When you start to add the mid-distance group indoors, you definitely pull in some more people that aren't necessarily 6K runners. For example, freshman Te'Shon Adderley can run the 800 meters and 600 meters, and she's kind of a hybrid between the sprinting and distance groups. Katie Hill, who had a very good cross country season for her while not necessarily in our top group in cross, is primed and ready to have a good track season in the 800. Heather Brunn is another one who scored last year indoors. I think she's ready to rock and roll. Freshman Haylie Zenner got through cross, but her passion and skill level is really suited for the 800. Those are some of the names you didn't hear as much in cross country.
Becca Dyson was an alternate for Big Tens in cross, but she's more of a miler, so I think you'll see her name move up higher on the totem pole. I think Maggie Bollig is going to make a big impact in that mile group. The 3,000- and 5,000-meter group is going to be very much the same as what you saw in cross. Molly Kayfes, Laura Docherty, Ashlie Decker, Jamie Piepenburg, Katie Moraczewski, Liz Berkholtz--I think they will be the big players in the 3,000 and 5,000 indoors.