Friday, November 30, 2007

Minnesota Hall of Fame: Meet the Class of 2007

Tomorrow night, the Minnesota Track & Field Hall of Fame will induct six new members into its honored circle. The Hall of Fame, which was initiated in 1996, will now honor 67 greats from Minnesota's rich track and field heritage.

Below are photos and biographical information on the Class of 2007 as supplied by the USATF - Minnesota's Hall of Fame committee:

Sarah Renk Thorsett
-- NCAA Champion 4 X 800m, 1992 and 1993 (University of Wisconsin)
-- NCAA 5th Outdoor 1500m, 1992; NCAA 5th Indoor Mile, 1993
-- NCAA 6th Outdoor 1500m and 800m, 1993
-- USATF 5th 800m 1993; USATF 4th 1500m 1994; USATF 3rd 1500m 1995
-- Pan Am Games 1500m Champion 1995; on World Championship team 1995 and 1997
-- Minnesota State Champion (Winona High School) 1600m 1987 & 1988, 800m 1988, 2nd 1600m 1987

Carson Hoeft
-- NCAA 7th place 1500 meter
-- 1990 Big 10 2nd place Outdoor 1500m and 2nd Indoor Mile
-- 1988 Big 10 2nd place Outdoor 1500m and 2nd Indoor 1500m
-- 1985 USA Junior Olympic Champion 800m in 1:52.07
-- 1986 3rd US Junior National Meet 800m and 1st in Pan Am Junior Meet
-- Minnesota State High School 1985 2nd in 800m and 2nd in 1600m, 1984 2nd in 1600m
-- Best 1500m time of 3:41.99 is equivalent to sub-4:00 mile

Donovan Bergstrom
-- NCAA Steeplechase Champion in 1993 (8:29)
-- Big 10 Steeplechase Champion 1992 and 1993
-- Big 10 Cross Country Champion 1991
-- Minnesota Class A State Champion 1600 meters 1986, 1987, 1988
-- Minnesota Class A State Champion 3200 meters 1986, 1987, 1988
-- Set Class A State Record 3200 meters of 9:06.21 in 1988

Jerry McNeal
-- Minnesota State High School One Mile 3rd 1953, 2nd 1954 (4:32.0)
-- Minnesota State High School Cross Country 2nd place 1954
-- University of Kansas Big 7 Cross Country Conference Champion
-- Big 7 Indoor 2-Mile Champion
-- Anchored 4 X Mile Relay to American College Record 1958
-- 5th NCAA 10K, 3rd NCAA 2-Mile, 7th NCAA Cross Country
-- Won Masters Division in City of Lakes, Grandma’s and Twin Cities Marathons

Gary Wilson
-- University of Minnesota Women’s Cross Country Coach 1985 - Present, Head Track Coach 1985 – 2006, Assistant Track Coach 2007
-- Big 10 Outdoor Track Championship 2006, Big 10 Indoor Championship 2007, Big 10 CC 2007
-- U of M Women CC Team placed 9th in 2005 and 11th in 2006 in NCAA Championships
-- Nine NCAA Cross Country team appearances, ranked in top 25 nationally 16 of last 20 years
-- U of M Track Women scored in NCAA Championship in 14 of 21 seasons
-- President of the National Women’s Intercollegiate Cross Country Coaches Association, 1994 - 1995
-- Coached 1993 US Junior National CC Team and 1996 US Junior National Track Team
-- National Endurance Curriculum Coordinator for USATF Coaching Education Program 1984 - 1993

Dick Mulken
-- Minnesota High School Coach, Detroit Lakes 1949 – 1951, White Bear Lake 1952 – 1962
-- Hamline University Head Track Coach 1962 – 1965, throwing coach 1962 – 1992
-- Punahou High School, Hawaii, assistant throwing coach 1992 – 1999
-- Currently coaching masters throwers in Florida (Total of 55 years coaching.)
-- At Hamline, coached 12 NCAA Div III Champions in shot or discuss, 2 NAIA Champions
-- Coached 31 NCAA Div III All-Conference throwers and 9 NAIA All-Conference throwers
-- Coached 21 MIAC throwing Champions and 108 MIAC All-Conference throwers

Induction ceremonies will take place at a banquet at the Coffman Memorial Union at the University of Minnesota.

Photos courtesy of the Hall of Fame Committee.

Team USA Minnesotans to Grace Reindeer Run

Have you always wanted to get Olympian Carrie Tollefson's autograph?

Do you think Andrew Carlson is kinda cute and hope to meet him someday?

Might you harbor ideas that you can actually beat 2:12 marathoner Jason Lehmkuhle in a race?

If you answered "yes" to any of the questions above, heading over to Saturday's Lifetime Fitness Reindeer Run 5k might be how you'll want to spend tomorrow morning. Ten members of Team USA Minnesota (pictured above with coach Dennis Barker) will participate in the event which begins at 9:30 a.m.

Team members expected to grace the shores of Lake Harriet include Tollefson, Carlson, and Lehnmkuhle as well as four-time USA champion Katie McGregor, marathoners Chris Lundstrom and Michelle Lilienthal, TC 10 Mile winner Kristen Nicolini Lehmkuhle, TC 5k winners Emily Brown and Antonio Vega, and miler Brad Lowery.

(Matt Gabrielson will not participate as he is shouldering the onerous duty of attending the USA Track & Field annual convention in Honolulu, Hawaii. He is a delegate to the USATF Athletes Advisory Committee.)

Also ... Jason Lehmkuhle finished second and Katie McGregor tied for third in the final 2007 USA Running Circuit standings. The USARC is a USA Track & Field road series featuring USA Road Championships from the 5k to the marathon.

The 2007 circuit, which was the 13th edition for men and the 12th for the women, featured nine events for men and seven events for women. The first 10 U.S. finishers at championship events earn points to qualify for prize money awarded to the top three finishers -- $6000, $4000 and $2500. Points for the marathon championships are doubled.

Lehmkuhle was fifth at the USA Half Marathon Championship, fifth at the USA 15k Championship, fourth at the USA 10k Championship, third at the USA 20k Championship, second at the USA 10 Mile Championship, and fifth at the USA Marathon Championship held in conjunction with the U.S. Olympic Men's Marathon Team Trials.

McGregor earned points by placing fourth at the USA 15k Championship, first at the USA 25k Championship, and second at the USA 10k Championship.

Ryan Hall and Deena Kastor won the 2007 USARC crowns. Full standings are HERE.

Photo by Scott Schneider, courtesy of Team USA Minnesota.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

LDR Chair Explains Team Circuit Changes

USA Track and Field Minnesota officials recently announced the details for the 2008 Team Circuit. Next year's race schedule and some rule changes came after a meeting of Team Circuit "stakeholders" last week. DtB talked to USATF-Minnesota Long Distance Running Chair Ed Whetham about the meeting and the 2008 Circuit.

DtB: What kind of turn-out did the Team Circuit meeting have?

Whetham: 24 people attended the meeting last week. Mostly USATF registered team representatives, USATF MN chairholders and a few race directors.

DtB: Can you tell us what prompted the change in the scoring system for the Team Circuit? What are the implications of the new method?

Whetham: The scoring system change occurred because of lack of team participation at a few of the races. Under the old scoring system the points were awarded based on the number of complete teams that showed up at each race. The one example that was used at the meeting, was that of the Rice Street Mile, where only one open women's team fielded a complete team. The new system will give a guaranteed number of points per race based on the number of teams that are registered for long distance running through USATF Minnesota.

The best example is to use Rice Street Mile again. Instead of awarding the only complete women's team 2 points this year, we will award the team 10 points, because 10 teams have registered teams with USATF. This change in the scoring is to encourage teams to compete and participate in each team race. The scoring system is still being worked out, but will model points given based on teams registered with USATF.

DtB: What prompted the removal of the marathon distance from the Circuit?

Whetham: There have been arguments both ways on whether to keep or remove the marathon from the team circuit. We decided to open the floor for discussion and then have a vote on whether we keep the marathon for 2008. It was the closest vote of the night, with the vote going 12-10 in favor of removing the marathon for 2008. There will be a vote at next year's meeting regarding the marathon for 2009.

DtB: Were there any other major issues discussed?

Whetham: The major issue of the night was the fate of the marathon on the Team Circuit for 2008. The other issue that was addressed during the meeting was to keep the cross-country circuit separate from the road racing circuit. The other close votes included which half-marathon was accepted at the USATF MN Championship Race and whether to include the 5000 meter track race.

DtB: How will the track 5000 meter race work? Will there need to be sections based on seed time to accommodate all the Team Circuit participants?

Whetham: We will discuss how the track 5000 is going to work at future USATF MN monthly meetings. We will more than likely have at least two sections, men's and women's, and depending on the number of entries it may be split into different sections. I would be in favor of seeing an open and masters section. The scoring will be the same for the track 5000 as it would be for a road 5k.

What do you think of the new Team Circuit rules and schedule? Feel free to comment below and vote in our new poll.

Also, USATF-Minnesota LDR Chair Ed Whetham is interested in your thoughts as well. E-mail him at edwhetham [AT] yahoo [DOT] com.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Plasencia: Behind the Gophers' Top-10 Finish

On the heels of the Gopher men's cross country team's 8th place finish at the NCAA Division I Championships, DtB talked to head coach Steve Plasencia (pictured) to have him offer his insights on what was arguably the best Gopher harrier squad in nearly 40 years. The Gopher men were Big Ten runners-up and Midwest Regional runners-up before cracking the NCAA top-10 for the first time since 1969.

DtB: How surprised were you by the team's finish at NCAAs. Did you know that kind of performance was in them and just waiting to come out?

Plasencia: As the season progressed I suspected that we were being somewhat overlooked in the national rankings. When my assistant, Brad Wick, and I sat down to go over race results, there was evidence to suggest that if we ran as we had been to that point in the season we had a real possibility to be a top ten team. I do not think we did anything at the national meet that had not been shown before that day.

DtB: This year's success comes after last year's end-of-the-year disappointment. Were there things learned last year that made this year's success more possible?

Plasencia: Good question. Not making the national meet for the first time in ten years in 2006, caused a lot of soul searching by both the athletes and the coaches. Preparation went well this year. I think it also should be noted that three of our top five at the, Regional and National meet this year were not running for our varsity last year. The new guys, Hassan, Forrest and Mike McFarland were very instrumental in anything we accomplished.

DtB: It looks like the team was very patient at NCAAs this year, coming through the field during the course of the race. Was that a new strategy or just one that was particularly well executed this year?

Plasencia: It was not a particular new strategy. The strategy that we had was different for different groups within the top seven that raced. They had to have a little faith that the position they were in at 3k was not necessarily where they would finish. The course was in hard condition and made making up places easier than if it was muddy. The question is whether, will you have the strength to move up when you want to. Last Monday those that went out conservatively did have the strength to move up as the race progressed.

DtB: Despite the fine finish, is there any sense of "what might have been," if Mike Torchia had remained healthy?

Plasencia: Mike and Matt Barrett (22nd at Griak) both had injuries that they could not comeback from in a meaningful way during the short cross country season. We look forward to having them back healthy this spring and then again next fall. I fell that it is pointless to deal in “could of, should of, would have” type speculation. Our team is as good as it is, or is not, at any point in time.

DtB: Do you think the NCAA finish this year will change the "yardstick" for the guys on the team -- that is, having them thinking more confidently about finishing even higher in the future?

Plasencia: I would hope, and expect that the guys on the squad will want to continue to have strong teams. How our finish this year changes what future groups expect or how they will perform, I can’t tell.

DtB: Is there anything I haven't asked about that you think is important for readers to know about the 2007 Gophers?

When we had injuries our plans to red-shirt Justin Grunewald changed. It was hard because I knew he really wanted to red-shirt and come back next year when he would have a lighter academic year. When I reluctantly approached him to change plans, he stepped forward to help the team without hesitation. I felt like that was representative of how these guys approached things this year.

Photo courtesy of the U of M.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

2008 Team Circuit Races Announced

USA Track & Field Minnesota recently announced the races that will compose the 2008 Team Circuit. The nine race series will kick-off in traditional fashion with the St. Patrick's Day Human Race on March 16th and conclude with the City of Lakes 25k on September 7th.

Changes to the Circuit for 2008 include a revised scoring system not based on the number of teams participating in a given race, the addition of a track 5000 meters to the schedule, and the removal of the marathon distance from the race mix.

The Complete schedule is:

Sunday, March 16th: St. Patrick’s Day Human Race 8k –St. Paul
USATF Minnesota Championship Race

Saturday, April 19th: Earth Day Half Marathon – St. Cloud
USATF Minnesota Championship Race

Saturday, April 26th: Get in Gear 10k – Minneapolis
USATF Minnesota Championship Race

Thursday, May 8th: TC 1 Mile – Minneapolis
USATF Minnesota Championship Race

Monday, May 26th: Brian Kraft 5k – Minneapolis
USATF Minnesota Championship Race

Sunday, June 8th: USATF Minnesota Open & Masters Track & Field Championships -- Hamline University St. Paul – 5000 meters

Sunday, August 3rd: Hennepin Lake Classic 5k/10k DoubleHeader – Minneapolis
USATF Minnesota Championship Racs

Sunday, August 10th: MDRA 15k – Edina
USATF Minnesota Championship Race

Sunday, September 7th: City of Lakes 25k – Minneapolis
USATF Minnesota Championship Race

Results from the 2007 Team Circuit can be found HERE.

DtB's coverage of the 2007 Team Series is gathered HERE.

Later this week ... we'll talk to USATF-Minnesota's Team Circuit point-man Ed Whetham about some of the changes to and issues surrounding the popular distance running circuit.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Finnerty 4th at Foot Locker Midwest Regional

For most high school runners in Minnesota, the cross country season ended three weeks ago at the State meet, if not before.

For Burnsville's Rob Finnerty, this is far from true. Finnerty took fourth (15:11) this morning at the Foot Locker Midwest Regional in Kenosha, Wisconsin in a loaded field consisting of the best high school runners from Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

His top-10 finish qualifies him for the National Championships on December 8th at Balboa Park in San Diego, California. Finnerty finished 11th in the Midwest race as a freshman, missing nationals by one spot, and made the top 10 for the first time in his career today.

Michael Fout of Indiana won the race in 14:54, followed by Illinois' Chris Derrick (15:01).

Full boys results are HERE.

Last year, Minneapolis South's now-Gopher-All-American Hassan Mead won the race with Winona's Elliot Heath (now of Stanford) taking third. Mead went on to finish 4th at Nationals, the best Minnesota finish in the meet's history.

In the girls race, Ohio's Claire Durkin set a course record with her 17:01 performance, but no Minnesotans finished in the top 10. Laura Hughes of Mankato West was the top Minnesota girls finisher, in 45th clocking 19:06.

Full girls results are HERE.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving From DtB!

Gobble gobble, track and cross country fans!

We're going to take the long holiday weekend off, here at the Down the Backstretch office complex. Like you -- and Kara Goucher recently -- we're looking forward to spending time with family and putting our feet up for a spell.

In keeping with the holiday, here's a THANK YOU! to all of you -- loyal DtB readers that you are. The cross country season and the entire first year of this endeavor has been especially rewarding thanks to your regular, growing readership.

Thanks for joining us!

We'll be back to work on Monday with the latest cross country, track, and distance running news from Minnesota.

NCAA Wrap-Up: Notes, Quotes, Results

Before we close up the Down the Backstretch office for the Thanksgiving holiday, we thought we'd wrap-up a few loose items we noticed after the NCAA meet.

This wrap-up is dedicated to Chris Marshall, who covered the D1 meet for DtB yesterday and Gene Niemi, whose photos from the D3 championship grace our slide-show -- Thanks guys!

Third-best Gopher Finish Ever ... The men's team's 8th place finish at the NCAA Championships is the best finish at the meet by the program since 1969. It's the third-best finish in team history. The 1968 team finished 4th at NCAAs; the 1969 team was 7th.

All-Americans .... We should also note that the Gopher men's Chris Rombough, Hassan Mead, and Jamie Cheever of the women's team all earned all-America honors at the meet. The top-30 runners in the meet as well as the top-30 U.S. citizens earn the distinction.

Golden Gopher Quotes ... You can get the full scoop on the Gophers at NCAAs in our stories below. We also offer these additional quotes from the head coaches thanks to the Minnesota sports information folks ...

From men's coach Steve Plasencia: “We had guys making big moves as the race went on. We wanted to go out with our heads in the first half of the race and run with hearts to the finish. We got solid efforts from all our guys today.”

From women's coach Gary Wilson: “We ran okay, but we didn’t run great. You could line up these teams and run this race over and over and there would be a different result every time. We fought hard, but we were a touch off and that is magnified in a race with as much talent as this one had. We are a bit disappointed because we really thought we had a chance to be a trophy team (top four) and we had set our goals pretty high. Still, it was a great season.”

Minnesotans at NCAAs ... Here's our list of Minnesota finishers the NCAA Division I Championships. Let us know if we missed anyone.

29 Chris Rombough, Minnesota
43 Hassan Mead, Minnesota
58 Forrest Tahdooahnippah, Minnesota
70 Michael Krisch, Georgetown
76 Jake Watson, Notre Dame
120 Justin Grunwald, Minnesota
161 Mike McFarland, Minnesota
162 Garrett Heath, Stanford
175 Rick Furseth, Minnesota
208 Ben Puhl, Minnesota
237 Elliott Heath, Stanford

25 Hanna Grinaker, Wisconsin
33 Jamie Cheever, Minnesota
53 Alex Gits, Stanford
76 Bria Wetsch, Oregon
105 Elizabeth Yetzer, Minnesota
109 Ladia Albertson-Junkans, Minnesota
111 Sarah Price, Michigan State
125 Megan Brandeland, Princeton
139 Gabriele Anderson, Minnesota
141 Sally Paulson, Minnesota
147 Megan Duwell, Minnesota
186 Heather Dorniden, Minnesota
216 Molly Lehman, Duke

Monday, November 19, 2007

Gopher Men Surprise with 8th Place Finish

The Gopher men surprised the cross country community with an 8th place team finish, scoring 322 points. Minnesota finished just two points ahead of Louisville and nine in front of UTEP.

Junior Chris Rombough led the way, crossing the line 29th overall in 30:25 for the 10-kilometer course. Hassan Mead capped off an outstanding true freshman season with a 43rd-place finish at the National Championships. Forrest Tahdooahnippah was 58th, Justin Grunewald finished 120th and Mike McFarland came in 161st overall to round out the scoring five for Minnesota.

“When we really sat down and started looking at it over the last few days we thought we might be able to do top-10,” said head coach Steve Plasencia. “The guys came through."

“I felt good until about 8k,” said Rombough, “and that’s when I knew I had to start passing guys.” After a 14th-place effort a year ago, Rombough said he knew the race would go out hard, and he was plenty happy to wait for the later stages to make a move. “I wanted to relax until I got to the top of the hill after 6k because that’s where I figured people would start falling off if they went out too fast,” he said.

The Gophers ran conservatively in the early going, and were 19th in the team competition at the 5000-meter mark. Over the first mile the pack stayed intact, and there were no Minnesota singlets to be seen in the front half. “We told them over the first half of the race run with your heads and run with your hearts over the last half of the race,” said Plasencia. According to Plasencia, Rombough passed 12 runners between six and seven kilometers. And he was not the only Gopher moving up. “Most of our guys were picking people off,” said Plasencia. “That was a strategy that worked out pretty well for us today."

In the first half of the race, it was not Mead or Rombough but Tahdooahnippah who lead the way for Minnesota.

“I usually have been the guy that goes out the hardest,” he said. “It was a little easier to move up then I thought it was going to be."

Tahdooahnippah’s experience with Stanford has taught him that anything can happen at the national meet.

“Even when I was a little farther back then I wanted to be with a mile to go I knew if I was able to dig down people would come back still,” he said.

Running in his first national meet as a true freshman, Mead was surprised by how fast the field went out. He said he ran 2:50 for the second kilometer, but “everyone else was going so much faster it seemed like I was in the back."

Mead was hoping to be in the top-50 early and move up over the last few kilometers. However, “it didn’t work out that way.” The depth of the race left Mead out of his comfort zone.

“You got 100 guys ahead of you and their all almost the same speed or better…you can’t wait and expect the last 2k to catch up.” He called his breathing “comfortable” even in the latter stages, but said his “legs just couldn’t get moving” like he wanted.

A slew of Minnesota faithful made the nearly 10-hour trip to Terre Haute, and their presence did not go unnoticed by the team.

“It felt great to have Minnesota across my chest and to have everyone in the crowd wearing Minnesota cheering for me,” said Tahdooahnippah.

Gopher Women Finish a Disappointed 12th

Gopher women’s head coach Gary Wilson said he looked at the numbers and could see his team finishing anywhere from fourth to twelfth going into Nationals. Unfortunately, they ended up on the latter end of that spectrum with a 12th-place finish.

“We were a little off today,” said Wilson.

The day was not without bright spots for the Gophers, as sophomore Jamie Cheever finished 33rd overall, sneaking under the 21-minute barrier in 20:59. “I tried to stay around the top 50 and feel good through the first 2k and move up from there,” she said.

Cheever wanted to use the hill just after the three kilometer mark to begin to move up.

“Yesterday in our pre-meet we really made a goal for everyone to move along there,” she said.

In winning the Big 10 Championships, the Gophers ran with a 21-second top five spread. Today, 52 seconds separated the scorers, and as a team they struggled to get going.

“I really was never able to get into my rhythm,” said Ladia Albertson-Junkans, an All-American last two years. “I felt I couldn’t get my body moving the way I usually can.”

“I really thought we could put five kids, six kids in the top hundred,” said Wilson. “It was just one of those days, where you’re ten or fifteen seconds off, and all of a sudden you’re not in the top eight."

Despite an underwhelming performance, Wilson was happy with his team’s effort and attitude.

“Obviously we’re disappointed, but at the same time it’s been a great year with wonderful kids,” he said. His team “gave it everything they had today,” but just didn’t run as well as they have.

“We just didn’t click today and that’s part of the game.”

“The sun will come up tomorrow, and we’ll be home,” said Wilson.

They’ll also still Big Ten champions.

Gopher Men 8th at NCAAs!

The University of Minnesota men's cross country team finished 8th at the the NCAA Championships today.

The Gophers' Chris Rombough finished 29th to the lead the squad which went from the 19th place team at the 5K chip-mat to 8th at the finish line.

Josh McDougal of Liberty won the individual race in a thrilling stretch run against Oregon's Galen Rupp. Griak Invitional champ Lopez Lomong of Northern Arizona was 3rd.

Oregon won the team title.

Official Men's Individual Results

Official Men's Team Results

A full story from the meet by DtB's Chris Marshall will follow.

Gopher Women 12th

The #5-ranked University of Minnesota women's cross country team finished 12th at the NCAA Division I Championships today

The University of Minnesota was led by Jamie Cheever in 33rd place.

DtB's Chris Marshall reports that Hannah Grinaker, a Detroit Lakes native who competes for the University of Wisconsin, finished 25th as the top North Star State finisher.

Texas Tech's Sally Kipyego defended her individual title. Colorado's Jennifer Barringer was second.

Stanford, for whom Edina native Alex Gits is a varsity runner, won it's third straight team title. Bria Wetsch's University of Oregon squad was second.

Official Women's Individual Results

Official Women's Team Results

Marshall will have a full story from the event later.

Until the Division I Races Begin ...

As we wait for the 11:05 CST start of the NCAA Division I men's championships -- with the women to follow at 11:55 -- here are some cross country tidbits to keep us occupied ...

From the NCAA Division III meet at St. Olaf ... Where, on the men's side, St. John's Chris Erichsen (pictured) finished 3rd overall and Bethel's Dan Greeno and Carl Gladitsch were also all-Americans. The Johnnie men finished 13th in the team standings; Carleton was 23rd. For women, St. Thomas finished 25th, St. Olaf was 30th. Bethel's Marie Borner and Nikki Umhoefer were all-Americans as was St.Thomas' Katie Theisen.

Women's Results
Women's Photos
Men's Results
Men's Photos

From the Division II Championships ... Minnesota State - Mankato's men finished a strong 5th, led by Denise Mokaya's 15th place finish. James Krajsa was 33rd. Augustana's Rachel Stangler, an Albany, Minnesota native, finished 7th for women.

Women's Results
Men's Results

And, in anticipation of the Division I meet ... Here's the latest form the Gopher sports information staff -- previews of what could be an excellent meet for the two programs.

Women's Preview
Men's Preview

Photo by Gene Niemi.

Friday, November 16, 2007

NCAA Championships Weekend is Here!

Let the national championships begin!

Collegiate harriers' half-year-long build-up which begins, typically, on the cool-down of the final track meet of the spring, grows on sweltering high summer runs, and gains its final polish as the leaves turn and fall, culminates for the top individuals and teams this weekend in Northfield, Minnesota, Joplin, Missouri, and Terre Haute, Indiana -- at the NCAA National Championships.

Minnesota's own Gopher, Maverick, Johnnie, Knight, Tommie, and Ole teams, plus a host of individuals will race this weekend in their sport's most challenging contests.

In the NCAA Division III Championships at St. Olaf College in Northfield on Saturday, St. John's Chris Erichsen will test his mettle against the top individuals in D3. A runner-up in the nationals steeplechase last spring, the senior looks to place high for himself and his #17 ranked team. Carleton's #23-ranked men will also compete on their cross-town rivals' course. The #23-ranked St. Thomas and #26 St. Olaf, who waged close battles with one another all season, will do so one last time.

Defending champion Calvin College of Michigan is the men's favorite. 2006 runner-up Amherst of Massachusetts is ranked #1 for women.

Minnesota State - Mankato will carry the North Star State guidon at the NCAA Division II Championships in Missouri on Saturday. The #6-ranked Mavs, who are making the program's 41st national meet appearance, have run solidly all season and likely have their sights set on a top-4, trophy-earning finish.

Colorado distance powers Western State and Adams State are ranked #1 and #2, respectively in the D2 men's rankings. They reverse that order atop the women's side of the ratings.

In Monday's big dance, the NCAA Division I Championships in Terre Haute -- which will be web-cast live HERE and which DtB will offer timely, on-site coverage from -- the Golden Gophers enter two of the best squads in the school's history. Gary Wilson's Big Ten and Midwest Regional champion women rank #5 in the country. Steve Plasencia's Big Ten and Midwest Regional runners-up men are rated #15.

Oregon's men are ranked #1; Stanford's two-time defending champion women (now with Minnesotan Alex Gits!) are tabbed to win a third women's title.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lehmkuhle (and Klecker) in Q-and-A Form

Our good friend Chad Austin has just posted two new interviews -- with Team USA Minnesota's Jason Lehmkuhle and Olympian Janis Klecker -- on his Running Minnesota site.

Lehmkuhle, who finished 5th at the Olympic Marathon Trails in a PR 2:12:54 earlier this month, talked, among other things, about his decision to wait out an early breakaway in the race.

"My decision to stay where I was certainly was buoyed by the fact that I was running in a group with Alan Culpepper, Brian Sell, Pete Gilmore and Khalid [Khannouchi]. If they thought, it was crazy to cover it. Then I would have had to be an idiot too," Lehmkuhle says.

Klecker, the 1992 Women's Olympic Marathon Trials winner, remembers that event warmly in her interview with Austin.

"The Olympic Trials in Houston is probably my fondest memory of a race. It was exciting to have all the training -- emotionally, spiritually, and physically come together on that day," she says.

For more of Austin's take on the world of running, check out his Simon Says ... Run blog as well.

Also ... It's a little dated, coming as it did before the Olympic Trials, but we enjoyed THIS Washington Post story about former Minneapolis resident Mike Reneau who finished 32nd in the Trials in 2:18:51.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wednesday Catch-All: On the Roads

As we did yesterday with cross country news, here's the latest from the Minnesota roads ...

Boren, Polson lead Runner of the Year Standings ... With the bulk of the season in the books, Jenna Boren and Jeremy Polson lead the open divisions of the 2007 Minnesota Running Data Center Runner of the Year standings. Boren, who competes for the TC Running Company, made up a 68-71 point gap on Nicole Cueno of GEAR since rankings were updated in September to now lead 82-77. Boren was the 2006 Minnesota Runner of the Year.

Polson of Run N Fun leads 2006 men's Runner of the Year Chris Lundstrom of Team USA Minnesota by a single point, 85-84. Patrick Russell of GEAR, who Polson has traded the Runner of the Year lead with all season, is third with 83 points.

Full Runner of the Year details, including the leaders for each of the age-groups, can be found HERE.

Help Plan the 2008 Team Circuit & Championships ... USATF-Minnesota will select its road championship events and Team Circuit races on Monday, November 19th at Majors Sports Cafe in Golden Valley at 7:30 p.m, new Men's LDR chair Ed Whetham tells DtB.

"We encourage everyone to attend the selection meeting to voice your suggestions and concerns, and to be involved in the voting process for the 2008 USATF MNTeam Circuit, " he said.

Majors is located on the frontage road north of 394, just east of Louisiana Avenue.

Jason Lehmkuhle -- in Podcast Form ... The running and fitness web-site The Final Sprint recently featured a podcast interview with Team USA Minnesota's Jason Lehmkuhle. Lehmkuhle finished 5th at the Men's Olympic Marathon Trials earlier this month, setting a new PR of 2:12:54.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Tuesday Round-Up: Cross Country, Lots of It!

Before it's too late, here's a round-up of sundry cross country items ...

Wilson Named Region Coach of the Year ... Is there enough shelving in Gopher coach Gary Wilson's office?

Hope so, because he now needs to make some room for the additional hardware that comes from being named the Midwest Region coach of the year. Wilson, who was named Big Ten Coach of the Year after his Gopher women (pictured after Regions) won their first-ever conference title, was awarded the parallel honor for winning the regional meet last weekend -- also a Gopher women's first.

His #5-ranked Gopher's compete at the NCAA Division I Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana on Monday.

Photo by Eric Paulson.

Gophers, Erichsen Named USATF-Minnesota Athletes of the Month ... Not to be outdone by their coaches, the Gopher women's cross country team and Chris Erichsen of St. John's were named USATF-Minnesota Athletes of the Month for November for their recent exploits. (See above for the exploits of the Gopher gals and their coach!)

Erichsen recently won the MIAC and NCAA Division III Central regional titles. His 24:45 clocking at Como Golf Course for the MIAC win was the fastest ever MIAC clocking at the venue. Erichsen's coach, Tim Miles, was named the MIAC coach of the year after the Johnnie earned the MIAC team title.

True-Freshman Gits Powering #1 Stanford ... 2007 Edina High School graduate Alex Gits is making a big splash in her rookie year at Stanford. The MSHSL Class AA cross country and 3200 meter champ last year, was the #2 runner for the Cardinal at the NCAA Division I West Regional last weekend, finishing 3rd overall. The Cardinal beat Oregon 33-72 for the region crown. Holy Family Alum Bria Wetsch was 16th in the race for the Ducks.

The Brothers Heath -- senior Garrett and true-freshman Elliott -- are contributing for the Stanford men, who finished 3rd in the West. Garrett finished 28th in the race; Elliott was 41st for 3rd place Stanford.

Eye-Witness Reporting from NTN Heartland ... Brian Fendrich, an assistant coach at Rosemount High School and a friend of DtB, sent us a report from the Nike Team Nationals Heartland Regional meet in Sioux Falls last weekend.

Quoting from his e-mail -- with our headers in italics and additional info in [brackets] ...

The Setting

"The course consisted of 2 2k loops (same loop) followed by a 1k closing loop. The 2k loops contained a 4 mogul section that probably only took 10-12 seconds to get through. It was basically four mounds of dirt one right after another. It was right about the 600m mark of the race and then again at about 2.6k. It was nothing major, but it does break up your rhythm. Each one was short and steep.

"There were also two sections of three hay bales on each of the 2k loops. These hay bales were not high, but they were close enough together to break up your rhythm. The rest of the course was completely flat, with decent but not great footing, a little uneven.

"The course was set up nicely with almost the entire course cordoned off with colored pennants or Nike pennants. I thought they spent a lot of time setting up the course and providing the conditions to make it a first class race. They had a great announcer giving important details. The weather was decent by the time the race went off with temps around 55 degrees with a south wind of 10-15 mph. The forecast called for windier conditions, but it really wasn't that windy.

Girls Competition

"The girls race went off with Katie Flood [Dowling Catholic, IA] immediately going to the front with about a 30m lead on Emily Sisson [Millard North, NE] by the time they got to the moguls (called whoop-de-does by those hosting). Sisson probably had another 30m on third. The Burnsville girls wearing the pink Run-n-Fun uniforms were off the pace in their pack at this point. Laura Hughes [Mankato West] moved to 3rd by about the 1k mark and she basically stayed there until the last 1k loop where she was passed by Des Moines 2nd runner. She ended up 4th.

"By the time the girls got to the mile mark, Flood had a huge lead. My voice recorder has her at 5:24 for the mile, but you can check for a more accurate reading in the results. She just pushed hard the whole way and never appeared to struggle. We have the Burnsville girls running as a pack in about 33-38th place at this point. They announced team scores at the mile and the top 3 teams were Fargo South [ND], Yankton [SD] and Sioux Falls Roosevelt [SD]. The Burnsville girls moved up well in the 2nd mile and looked like they were going to maybe get 2nd, but their 5th struggled a bit over the last 1k and lost touch with their pack. It was really hard to pick out which teams were which, because most teams were running in non school issue, so many teams had no team insignias on their uniforms.

"My voice recorder has Flood in 11:12 for two miles with a huge lead. I have Burnville's first in 15th place at two miles.(Remember there were some individuals that did not count in team scores, so I don't know what team place that was). We had all of Burnsville's five in the top 30 at two miles though. The top three teams at 2 miles were Fargo South, Yankton and Des Moines Dowling, but I am sure Burnsville was a close 4th or 5th at at that point along with Sioux Falls.

"After the race, they did not announce the team scores, even though I am sure they had the capabilities as they had announced 1 mile and 2 mile team scores DURING the race. They did not announce or post these results until the award presentation an hour later. You can see how close Burnsville was to getting 2nd. They ran a great race.

Boys Competition

"The Boys race saw [Joash] Osoro from Bismark take it out hard much like Flood did, but he had an assortment that attempted to stay close to him through the first mile. I believe he was close to 4:45 for mile 1, which included the moguls and a set of hay bales. Jordan [Carlson of Rosemount] was about 10th or 12th at the mile mark in 4:53 I believe. Wayzata and Rosemount were still back at this point.

"I heard the announced team leaders at 1-mile. and I believe it was Pleasant Valley, and Yankton for the top two spots. Wayzata moved strongly through 1 -2 miles as did Rosemount. At the 2 miles mark the announced team leaders were Wayzata #1 and Rosemount #2. Jordan was in a group of 3-4 for 2nd at this point with Osoro probably 15-18 seconds clear. Obai [Hussein of Rosemount] was about 15th and we had three guys moving behind them. About 1 quarter mile after that Obai goes down again with breathing issues much like Griak. That immediately took us out of it because we only had 4 moving up at that point with our other two struggling.

"Wayzata just moved up strong the rest of the race. It was a race very similar to their state meet performance, not losing ground on anybody the last mile and passing those that were struggling. Jordan and Dominic Robinson [of Wyoming] battled over the last 1k and were closing on Osoro, but he was never really challenged."

You can see full NTN Heartland results, read a lengthy recap, and check out photos of the meet HERE (boys) and HERE (girls) courtesy of Dyestat.

Finnerty Down to Gophers, Badgers for College

The Star-Tribune's Dean Spiros is reporting today that Burnsville's 2007 Class AA cross country champ Rob Finnerty has narrowed his college choice to two: Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Finnerty, the 5th fastest 3200 meter runner in Minnesota prep history at 8:55.75, had visited and considered Oregon as well.

According to the Strib story, it sounds like Finnerty is having a tough time making his final choice -- one he still expects to make in the next few weeks.

Photo by Gene Niemi.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Going to Nationals: St. John's & Carleton Men,
St. Thomas & St. Olaf Women

The St. John's and Carleton men's cross country teams earned "At-Large" berths to this weekends NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships. The Johnnies and Knights finished 3rd and 4th respectively at the NCAA Division III Central Regional at St. Olaf on Saturday, but gained a spot on the national meet starting line by committee selection.

The St Thomas and St. Olaf women's teams will also also compete at nationals, which will be hosted by St. Olaf on Saturday. St. Thomas finished 4th in the regional, St. Olaf was 5th.

The top two teams in each of D3's eight regions automatically qualify for nationals. Another 16 teams nation-wide are selcted by committee.

You can find detailed info on the meet HERE.

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Short-Cut: Results for November 10-11

Lot's of big meets to link to this weekend ...

NCAA Division I Midwest Regional (Gophers): Results
Update: Gopher women win; Gopher men, Mead 2nd.

NCAA Division III Central Regional (at St. Olaf): Results
Update: Women ... St. Thomas 4th, St. Olaf 5th, St. Ben's 7th.
Update: Men ... St. John's 3rd, Carleton 4th, St. Olaf 6th.

Nike Team Nationals Heartland Region: Results
Update: Wayzata boys win, Brainerd 4th.
Update: Burnsville girls 4th.

USATF-Minnesota XC Championships: Results

Hot Gopher Teams Head to Midwest Regional

The Minnesota Golden Gopher harriers -- the Big Ten champion women and the Big Ten runner-up men -- will compete at the NCAA Division I Midwest Regional in Peoria, Illinois tomorrow with sights set on qualifying for the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana eight days later.

The Gopher women are the #1-ranked team in the region and rank #6 in the country.

The Gopher men are #2 in the region, behind Oklahoma State, and #15 in the country.

The top two teams in each of the nation's eight regional meets earn automatic berths in the NCAA Championships. Another 13 invitations to "the big dance" will go to non-automatic qualifiers.

Last year the Gopher women were runner-up to Illinois in the meet. Illinois is ranked #2 in the region to the Gophers this year, followed by #3 Iowa, and #4 Nebraska. Surprisingly, the Gopher women have never won the Midwest Regional.

In 2006, the Gopher men, three-time Midwest champs, finished a disappointed 6th in the meet held in the Twin Cities. Aside from Oklahoma State, they should expect a challenge from the Midwest's #3 team Tulsa and #4 Iowa State. Tulsa finished 6th in the Blue Section of the Pre-National meet in Terre Haute earlier this year; the Gophers were 7th in the White Section. Iowa State nipped the Gophers at Griak.

You can find the Gopher media department's previews of the event, including video interviews with the coaches, below:



Thursday, November 08, 2007

#1 Wayzata Boys, #4 Burnsville Girls Lead Minnesota Contingent at NTN Regionals

There's no rest for the successful.

MSHSL Class AA Boys champions Wayzata, newly ranked #1 in the Nike Team National Heartland Region, and Class AA girls winners Burnsville, slotted as the Heartland's #4 girls squad, headline the Minnesota high school teams racing in Sioux Falls on Saturday in the NTN Heartland Regional in hopes of earning the right to compete at Nike Team Nationals in Portland, Oregon on December 1.

#4-ranked Rosemount, the Class AA boys runners-up last weekend, #8 Brainerd, and un-ranked Stillwater, Willmar, and Perham will also line up in the boys' NTN qualifying race. A number of other boys and girls squads from Minnesota will compete in non-qualifying events at the day-long event.

The first and second place teams from each of the nine NTN Regions, plus four "wild card" selections, will qualify for the Nike Team Nationals. Last year, the Willmar boys team finished 16th at NTN.

The seedings for the Heartland Regional can be found HERE.

Heartland rankings can be found HERE.

The Heartland Region main page can be found HERE.

The Nike Team Nationals Wed-page can be found HERE.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Opinion: Improving State Meet Qualifying

I’ve groused about the MSHSL's State Cross Country Championship qualifying format for awhile now. (To catch up, click THIS, from last fall, and THIS, from last spring.) But now, I’m going to do something about it!

No, nothing rash, I’m simply going to offer a constructive plan for a better way to select teams for the State Meet.

My beef boils down to this: the current two-teams-from-each-Section format is too quality-blind. Too many good teams – potential trophy-wining and top-10 finishing teams – have been left off the State Meet starting line in the past with the current system. I’d like to find an objective way to put all of the best teams on the starting line at State.

So here’s my constructive advice for the MSHSL …

(1) Continue to divide the State into eight Sections.

(2) Award each Section Champion an “automatic” berth in the State Meet to its winner.

(3) Have each team that finishes in the top-8 at the previous year’s State Meet, earn their Section an additional, "bonus," team at State.

The Proposal would place the eight Section Champions in the State Meet every year. Sectional competition has been an important element of State-qualifying, across the MSHSL spectrum of sports, and it should be continued.

The proposal would reward strong Sections with additional teams based an objective measure – the previous year’s State Meet performance. If the system looks familiar, that’s because it’s similar to the way NCAA Division III selected teams for its national championship until recently.

If we put the proposal into practice beginning with this year’s State Meet results, here’s what, for example, the 2008 Class AA Boys State Meet starting line would look like:

1AA Champion
2AA Champion
3AA Champion
4AA Champion
5AA Champion
6AA Champion
7AA Champion
8AA Champion

6AA Runner-up … earned by Wayzata’s 1st place finish
3AA Runner-up … earned by Rosemounts’ 2nd place finish
8AA Runner-up … earned by Brainerd’s 3rd place finish
4AA Runner-up … earned by Stillwater’s 4th place finish
3AA 3rd placer … earned by Eastview’s 5th place finish
2AA Runner-up … earned by Willmar’s 6th place finish
8AA 3rd place team … earned by Moorhead’s 7th place finish
6AA 3rd place finisher … earned by Eden Prairie’s 8th place finish.

Put another way … 3AA, 6AA, and 8AA would get three teams at State next year; 2AA and 4AA gets two teams, 1AA, 5AA, and 7AA get only their Section champs to State in 2008.

At the 2008 State meet, all the teams on the starting line could earn their Section bonus teams for the 2009 meet. So, for example, if the order of finish at State for the top-8 went …


… then, in that scenario, 6AA would get four teams at the 2009 meet (their automatic team and three top-8 bonus teams) 8AA would get three teams (1 auto & 2 bonus), 1AA, 2AA, and 3AA would get two teams (1 & 1) and 4AA, 5AA, 7AA would each get their single automatic team.

The system assumes that the quality of a Section will endure across seasons, as one season’s results affect the next season’s qualifying teams. The system will respond to changes in the competitive landscape -- a Section with, say, four teams in the meet in one year could have only one the next.

While a Section could never have less than one team at State, a single Section could conceivably (if improbably) have nine teams at State, if they continued to earn more and more bonus teams each season with top-8 performances at State and earned all eight bonus teams.

The proposal could be tweaked or augmented in the following ways …

(1) You could cap the total number of teams a Section could earn.

(2) You could add teams to the starting line beyond the current 16, to allow more bonus teams or to allow two automatic teams per Section plus bonus teams. (A 24 team meet, for example, could put all the Section champions on the starting line, plus 16 bonus teams selected by top-16 finishes at State.)

(3) You could, in the 16-team format, offer bonus teams to only the top-6 teams from the previous year and leave two “wild card” teams to be chosen by a coaches’ panel based on results from the season in question.

I think almost any of these variations would make a better system than the one we have now.

My bottom line is that I’d like to see the best teams race at State year-in and year-out. I think the format above would allow that in a fair, objective way. It’s not a perfect plan – a top team could still fall through the cracks of the system – but it would be an improvement over what’s in place now.

Let us know what you think, by commenting below. Do you have your own plan? Let us know about that. Let DtB be a marketplace for cross country ideas!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Sweeney, Miles Named Coaches of the Year

Still catching up on some of last week's news ...

St. Thomas women's cross country coach Joe Sweeney and St. John's men's coach Tim Miles were named Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Cross Country Coaches of the Year. Sweeney's squad earned a tight win over Carleton and St. Olaf at the conference's championship in St. Paul on October 27. Miles' Johnnie's won the men's title over Carleton 49-63.

The MIAC also named individual champions Marie Borner of Bethel and Chris Erichsen of St. John's its Athletes of the Year. The league also listed its all-conference and sportsmanship squads.

Details on all the women's awards can be found HERE. Men's details are HERE.

Regionals next ... MIAC squads will compete at the NCAA Central Regional on Saturday at St. Olaf. The top two women's and men's teams at the meet earn automatic berths into the NCAA Division III National Championship, also held at St. Olaf. The region could send as many as five teams each to nationals with "at large" selections," however.

The latest Central Region women's rankings are:

1. Nebraska Wesleyan
2. Luther
3. University of St. Thomas
4. Carleton College
5. St. Olaf College
6. Grinnell College
7. Wartburg College
8. Central College
9. Bethel University
10. St. Benedict

The pollsters rate the men:

1. St. John's
2. Nebraska Wesleyan
3. Carleton
4. Luther
5. Grinnell
6. Wartburg
7. Hamline
8. St. Olaf
9. Gustavus Adolphus
10. Bethel

Monday, November 05, 2007

Olympic Trials Marathon Photo Galleries

I was planning to add additional galleries in the list of links below, but this one deserves its own post. Our friends at have posted over 500 great photos from Saturday's Olympic Trials Marathon. This should be your first stop if you are looking for pictures from the event. Multiple photos of every athlete in the field.

Monday News and Notes ...

Today's catch-all post is dedicated to DtB's own Chris Marshall. While I was away at the Gustavus Adolphus College Hall of Fame induction of Craig Miller, whom I had the honor of coaching some 15+ years ago, Chris covered the MSHSL State Meet with aplomb.

Here are some items that may have gotten lost in the shuffle amidst all the weekend action ...

Mankato Men Qualify for D2 Nationals ... The #6-ranked Maverick men finished 3rd in the NCAA Division II North Central Regional in Vermillion, South Dakota. The top five teams in each region qualify for nationals. Minnesota Duluth, ranked #25, finished 7th in the meet. Denise Mayoka led Mankato which with a 10th place, 31:04 clocking over the 10,000 meter course. You can find details HERE and full men's results HERE.

In women's competition, UMD was 8th in the meet; Minnesota State Moorhead was 10th.

The Mavs head to Joplin, Missouri this weekend for the national championship.

State Cross Country ... If Chris didn't give you enough content on the State Meet -- or you wish to see one more photo of the meet above and beyond what Gene Niemi shot for DtB -- check out the John Millea's story in the Star-Tribune HERE.

Lehmkuhle's Great Race ... Following up on Team USA Minnesota's Jason Lehmkuhle who finished 5th at the Olympic Marathon Trials on Saturday morning ... there's THIS story -- with a great photo -- from the Star-Tribune.

Lehmkuhle offered the following via a Team USA Minnesota media release:

"This was a big breakthrough marathon for me. I was trying to be patient and not make any huge moves early on. I was very conscious of trying to pace myself because of the difficulties I've had in my last couple of marathons. I was worried the whole time but I was really comfortable and felt the best I have ever felt in the last six miles of a marathon.

"I was running with Brian Sell by the third loop. When we came through the hills on the west side which was at about 17 miles, he really dropped the pace down by about 10 seconds a mile and I couldn't maintain that. But there were people coming back to us. I saw Abdi [Abdirahman] drop out and then I passed Dan Browne [who finished sixth] at mile 23. I knew I was in the top five because about every third spectator was giving you a time gap about where you were.

"It was a great race for me with almost a four minute PR. It was the kind of marathon I knew I could run. I just had not put it all together before. Both of my quads were a little tight but I stayed together much better than when I ran the Boston Marathon last spring. The marathon is a very difficult race because it has a sharp learning curve. I had to learn to be careful of reaching a redline point and not crossing it. You have to got to stay within yourself.

"I wouldn't be up here if I wasn't with Team Minnesota. My coach and my teammates have provided me with a great deal of support. It has certainly been valuable to me to be with one of the training groups in this country."

The Shay Tragedy ... As was everyone, I was shocked when I heard the news of Ryan Shay's death at the Olympic Trails. I had gotten to know him a bit over the years through my reporting. He'd competed at Twin Cities Marathon events the last two year - finishing 3rd in the marathon in 2006 and competing in the USA 10 Mile Championship last month.

I wrote THIS profile of Shay for Running USA back in 2003 after he won the USA Marathon Championship in Birmingham, Alabama. I also conducted THIS interview with him prior to the 2004 Olympic Trails.

In the profile, there's a now-poignant quote from Shay about a favorite book, Jean-Paul Satre's Nausea. Describing a character struggling with the meaning of life, Shay said:

"He finally finds out what his purpose in life is and the sickness goes away. It's about someone finding what they want to do and doing it - and it makes your life that much better."

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Class A Boys: Perham Wins Team Title;
Wasinger Defeats Lachowitzer

Perham entered the day ranked #1 in Class A Boys and lived up to the hype, winning the championship with 88 points, ahead of Adrian's 150 and Pequot Lakes' 161. Defending champion Kevin Lachowitzer and Justin Tellinghuisen went 1-5 in the team competition to lead the way. Their teammates were not far behind, finishing 23rd, 26th and 33rd. Their spread of 1:35 is deceptive due to Lachowitzer's sub-16 effort.

Like the girls, the boys' individual race took little time to develop. Winona Cotter's Donny Wasinger took the lead right from the gun. "I think the nerves of the race probably got to me a bit...I got worked up a little bit and I took it out, but then I knew I had to slow down because I was going to die if I kept doing that," he said. Wasinger told DtB he intentionally slowed his pace in order to allow Lachowitzer to catch him.

Wasinger started to move in the woods, but Lachowitzer closed the gap by the time the pair reached the most challenging hill on the course with just over 800 meters to go. "I started going down the hill and just thought that this is going to be the last time I ever get to run this course as a high schooler and if I don't leave it all out here I'm going to be kicking myself for the rest of my life." The Winona Cotter senior opened up a small lead as he hit the hill leading up to the finishing straightaway. "When I got to the top of the hill I looked over both shoulders and I thought I saw him back there a little ways but I wasn't sure how far so I put my head down and went." Wasinger finished in 15:52.9, with Lachowitzer just behind in 15:58.5. St. Anthony Village's Andrew Hoffman outkicked Ryan Tholen of Tracy/Milroy/Balaton for third in 16:20.4.

Full Results

Photo of Wasinger (l) and Lachowitzer by Gene Niemi.

Class A Girls: Adrian, Keller Win Titles

It came as no surprise when Adrian was announced as team champion for Class A girls. The Dragons, led by 7th-grader Jordin Kopplow, amassed 97 points to take hope the title. Holy Family Catholic, who entered the day as the #4-ranked team, finished second, a mere 10 points ahead of #2 Perham and 12 points ahead of #3 Staples-Motley.

In the individual race, Linda Keller of Paynesville Area, Naomi Landecker of Staples-Motley and Marissa Janning of Watertown-Mayer have sat atop the individual rankings of girls Class A for nearly the entire season, and wasted no time to get to the front of the pack this afternoon. The three favorites escaped from the pack and built themselves a 15-meter lead by the 1600-meter mark, which they reached in 5:25.

By 3200 meters, Keller had broken the pack and led coming out of the woods toward the finish. Last year's 3rd-place finisher won the race in 14:30.2, followed by Landecker in 14:43.4 and Janning in 14:48.7. Keller said she was nervous initially, but settled in once the race got underway. She said she did not have any expectation of how the race would play out, but felt good enough late in the race to make a move.

Full Results

Photo Naomi Landecker (l) and Linda Keller by Gene Niemi.

Wayzata Wins Class AA Boys Convincingly;
Finnerty Wins Individual Crown

In the Class AA boys’ race, top-ranked Wayzata took the title, boasting a meet-best top five spread of 29.1 seconds. Jeremy Dreckhahn and Danny Ducharme led the Trojans, finishing 5th and 7th respectively in the team competition. Wayzata scored just 62 points ahead of Rosemount’s 110 and Brainerd’s 147. Rosemount, who entered the day ranked 2nd in Class AA, rallied behind a 2nd-place finish (1st in the teem meet) by Jordan Carlson. “I was just trying to get first place in the team scores, that’s all I really wanted to do. If that meant 3rd place overall, 2nd place overall, whatever it took for that,” he said.

Wayzata head coach Bill Miles acknowledged the hard work of his entire team. “We’ve got a lot of talented kids, talented kids that don’t even get to race today.” He credited his team’s pack running the fact that his athletes are comfortable running together. “They’re all capable of running under 10 for two miles, and so that makes it pretty easy to be together as a pack and going through the mile in 5 [minutes]."

Miles downplayed the effect of a disappointing 3rd place finish at the Section 6AA meet last season. “We focus on this year, and the whole point is these guys work really hard to be good,” he said. “They’re so excited to have a chance to be able to race. We’re proud of what we did last year and we’re proud of what we did the year before that but it’s about this season, and the work that they did to get ready to race."

The top two individuals have grown familiar with each other over the last few weeks, and Carlson has seen plenty of Rob Finnerty’s backside, finishing second to the Burnsville senior in both the Lake Conference Championships and the Section 3AA meet. However, in those meets Finnerty ran away from the field, winning by 46 and 48 seconds respectively. Today, Finnerty took the race out hard in 4:42 for the first mile, but could not keep up his blistering pace. Carlson said he was “really surprised” to be within striking distance in the last 800 meters of the race, but with 600 meters to go, Finnerty took a peek over his shoulder, he told DtB, saw Carlson coming, and pounded the last quarter-mile to win in 15:28.8. Carlson clocked 15:37.8 in front of Pieter Gangnon of Minneapolis Washburn, who finished 3rd in 15:44.5.

Finnerty was happy with the win, but his performance was not what he expected of himself. “I went out a little bit hot, it’s just hard to do on your own and I just wasn’t feeling it today,” he said. “My plan was to go out really hard and try to hold it. I just couldn’t do it.” He ran about 4:41 for the first mile and was all alone. After the race he told DtB he was aiming to run 4:45 for the opening 1600 meters. “I got a lot of adrenaline going, from the fans and I went out a little harder then I wanted to go."

After finishing 2nd as a freshman, he did not run in the section meet as a sophomore due to a stress fracture. Finnerty finished 4th in last year’s state meet. “I wasn’t going to leave high school without a cross country title."

For those anxiously awaiting Finnerty’s college decision, he said he hopes to make an announcement “in the next couple weeks."

Full Results

Photo of Finnerty by Gene Niemi.

Blaze Wins Class AA Girls with 7.6 Second Spread

A solid five-runner pack has been the secret to success for the Burnsville girls’ cross country team all season, and today proved no different at the State Championship at St. Olaf College in Northfield. Without a single runner in the top 20 overall, the Blaze managed to score just 90 points with an incredible 7.6 seconds separating their top five. Runner-up Eden Prairie put three runners in front of Maria Tinebra, Burnsville’s top finisher, but could not stack up in the fourth and fifth positions. Eden Prairie’s fifth runner placed 50th in the team race while 3rd-place Minnetonka’s fifth was 68th, losing crucial points to the Blaze, whose final scorer crossed the line 25th in the team meet.

This pack did not surprise Burnsville head coach Jeff Walsh, whose team entered the meet ranked second in Class AA. A low top-five spread has been the game plan all season long for the Blaze. “The best thing to say: continue to stay a pack,” Walsh said.

In the individual competition, last year’s runner-up Laura Hughes of Mankato West made a strong move with 600 meters to go, putting 17 seconds on second-place finisher Cassy Opitz of Eden Prairie, winning 14:28.4 to 14:45.2. Emma Bates of Elk River was 3rd in 14:47.3.

White Bear Lake’s Katie Moreczewski took the race out in the early going, coming through the mile unofficially in 5:34. By 3200 meters, the top two contenders had emerged, with Opitz and Hughes in front, followed by Kaylea Brase of Centennial, who finished 8th.

Hughes learned from last year’s race. “Last year I took off a little earlier because I was feeling good, but this year I just stuck with them just to make sure I could finish it,” she said.

After breaking away from Opitz late in the race, Hughes ran the finishing stretch with a significant lead, though she was unaware of how much breathing room she had. “I didn’t know I was so far ahead. I though she was right on my tail in that last stretch…I just tried to go as fast as I could."

Like Hughes, Opitz was consciously conservative for the first mile. “I know the state meet usually goes out really fast, and I have been working on my pace. It’s not really about time at this meet,” she said.

Full Results

Photo of Laura Hughes by Gene Niemi.

Olympic Trials Marathon: the MN Results

Olympic Trials Marathon competitors with Minnesota connections:

5 Jason Lehmkuhle, Minneapolis, 2:12:54
(Team USA Minnesota)

20 Chad Johnson, Rochester Hills, MI, 2:17:58
(former Gopher)

30 Donovan Fellows, Woodbury, 2:18:45

32 Michael Reneau, Rochester Hills, MI, 2:18:51
(formerly competed for Run N Fun)

37 Chris Lundstrom, Minneapolis, 2:19:21
(Team USA Minnesota)

60 Ryan Meissen, Mukwonago, WI, 2:23:38
(frequently competes in MN)

63 Zachary Schendel, Minneapolis, MN, 2:24:10
(Team Ortho)

82 Pete Gilman, Rochester, 2:28:09
(GEAR Running Store)

98 Martin Rosendahl, Rochester, MI, 2:33:58
(Former Fridley H.S. & MSU-Mankato athlete)

Full results can be found here.