Monday, December 29, 2008

Grossinger, Ward Take Prospect Park Hill Climb Titles

Despite frigid, icy conditions, Chris Grossinger and Erin Ward turned in impressive times in winning the open division titles at the 5th annual Prospect Park Hill Climb in Minneapolis on Sunday. Grossinger completed the 2.055 mile uphill course in 13:05, just 15 seconds in front of Derek Phillips. Erin Ward ran 14:30 to set a new women's course record. Ward was using the event as a final tune-up for the Rock 'n Roll Arizona Marathon on January 18th.

Full results and statistics are available on the race website. A photo gallery has been posted on the USATF Minnesota site.

Photo by Pete Miller. Derek Phillips (left) challenges Chris Grossinger in the early going.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Happy Holidays and Thanks from DtB!

Happy Holidays everyone!

As I look out my office window at flurries in the air and a rich blanket of snow on the ground, I certainly feel the holiday mood. Like many of you. I'm sure, I'm ready to take a little break to focus on family and to enjoy some time in the wintry outdoors.

With this post, Down the Backstretch will punctuate its coverage of running and track in Minnesota for 2008. Sure, we'll make time to cut in if a big story breaks, but we're guessing the sports' news-makers will be taking some down-time too. It's Christmas after all!

In the spirit of the season, let me extend my thanks to all of you who have made DtB a regular stop in your day. Your readership sustains our efforts. We're honored to bring the news of our sport to each and every of you. Thanks!

Let me also thank the TC Running Company and owner Adam Lindahl and USA Track and Field - Minnesota and its Board of Directors for their generous support of DtB in 2008. We're proud that they see the merits and value of our little enterprise and have supported it with their hard-earned resources.

Finally, let me thank my regular contributors: co-founder Pete Miller; columnist Chris Lundstrom; correspondents Chad Austin and Chris Marshall; pinch-hitter-while-I-was-away-in-Antarctica Jim Ferstle; photographers Gene Niemi, Sean Hartnett, and Victor Sailer; and Miles' List mavens Bill and Tim Miles. DtB is better because of each and every one of them.

So, again, best wishes during the holiday season everybody. Thanks again for your visits to our corner of the Internet. We hope the spirit of the season smiles upon each and every one of you.

And, we hope to see you again starting on January 5.

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Keenan Wins USATF's Steinfeld Award

Grandma's Marathon executive director Scott Keenan earned USA Track and Field's Allan Steinfield Award at the group's annual meeting recently.

The award, conferred by the Men's Long Distance Running Committee, recognizes "outstanding contributions to men’s long distance running within a road race organization." The honor is named after long-time New York City Marathon director Allan Steinfeld.

Keenan is the founder of Grandma's Marathon and the director of the event for its entire 33-year history.

"I was extremely honored to be selected as a recipient of this award," Keenan told DtB. "Allan Steinfeld has been instrumental in the development and success of long distance running, so to receive any recognition associated with his name is a great honor. Allan’s leadership, vision and friendship have been so important to my career that I eagerly accepted the opportunity to be presented with the award."

In Other Grandma's News ... Race organizers announced that registration for next spring's Fitger's 5K will be conducted on-line exclusively. The sign-up period for the race will open Thursday, January 8, 2009 on the Grandma's web-site. Officials said that in an effort to become more environmentally-friendly, paper entry forms for the 3.1-mile race will no longer be printed.

In Other Duluth News ... Two Duluth natives made Running USA's "10 Best Moments for U.S. Distance Running in 2008."

Ranked #9 is Scott Jurek's third straight win at the Spartathlon endurance race in Greece. The Seattle resident traversed the grueling 152.8 mile course from Athens to Sparta in 22 hours, 20 minutes, 1 second, his fastest time there and the 5th-fastest ever.

Ranked #6 is Kara Goucher's third place, 2:25:53 marathon debut at the ING New York City Marathon. Goucher broke Deena Kastor's U.S. marathon debut record of 2:26:58 from New York in 2001. Goucher is the third fastest U.S. woman marathoner ever behind Kastor and Joan Benoit Samuelson.

The full Running USA listing can be found HERE.

One More Duluth Thing ... Former Duluth resident Brandy Erholtz was named USA Track and Field's female Mountain Runner of the Year. Erholtz currently resides in Bailey, Colorado.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Borner, Gleason Named Athletes of the Month

USATF-Minnesota announced yesterday that Marie Borner and Brandon Gleason are the organization's Athletes of the Month for December.

Borner, a Bethel University junior, was honored for winning the women’s individual title at the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships held in Hanover, Indiana last month. Borner, the two-time Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference cross country champion won the 6K event in 20 minutes, 43 seconds.

Gleason, a senior at Hamline University, was recognized for his 13th place finish in men’s competition at the meet. Gleason, who suffered serious injuries while on a training run in February of 2007 when he was struck by a motor vehicle, earned all-American honors for the first time in his career with a 24:47 performance over the 8K course.

USA Track & Field Minnesota selects Athletes of the Month to honor excellence in track and field and its related sports in Minnesota.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Kara Goucher to Run Boston

Olympian and World Championships' bronze-medalist Kara Goucher will compete in the Boston Marathon next April, race organizers have announced.

Goucher, who finished third in the ING New York City Marathon in November in a debut 2:25:53, will continue her marathoning career on American pavement.

"I could not be more excited to participate in the 2009 Boston Marathon on the John Hancock Elite Team," Goucher said in a media release. (John Hancock is the primary sponsor of the Boston Marathon. )

"As an American, Boston is an incredible opportunity to run a Major Marathon," the Duluth native continued. "The race has a history like no other and it's legacy spans generations. I am so thankful to continue my journey toward my goal of becoming the best runner in the world here in the United States."

Read the full media release HERE.

Also ... The Duluth News Tribune's Kevin Pates has a story, HERE, about the Boston announcement. It includes interviews with Goucher and coach Alberto Salazar.

TCM: USA Championship Central

In the next four years, Twin Cities Marathon, Inc. will host twelve USA Road Racing Championships at distances from the mile to the marathon, the organization announced last week.

In addition, the long-time hosts of the USA Masters Marathon Championship will continue in that role until at least 2015. USA Track and Field awarded the championships to TCM at its recent annual meeting.

TCM will host the USA Men's and Women's Road Mile Championships at the Medtronic TC 1 Mile from 2009 to 2012. The 2009 event is scheduled for Thursday night, May 7 on the Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis.

The event will mark the inaugural running of a USA Road Mile Championship. The 2009 event will offer a $20,000 prize purse.

In the next two years, TCM will host USA championships at the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and the Medtronic TC 10 Mile. In 2009, TCM will host the USA Women's Marathon Championship and the USA Men's 10 Mile Championship.

In 2010, the event will host the men's marathon championship and the women's 10 Mile championship.

The 2009 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon and Medtronic TC 10 Mile are scheduled for Sunday, October 4. Athletes will compete for a USA Women’s Marathon Championship prize purse of $72,500 and a USA Men’s 10 Mile Championship prize purse of $25,000.

"USATF is delighted to work with Twin Cities Marathon, Inc. in presenting these championship events," Fred Finke, the organization's Interim High Performance Division Chairman and Long Distance Running Chairman said in a TCM media release.

"Twin Cities Marathon, Inc. has a long history of support for American athletes and the development of distance running in this country," he added. "Their quality events and attention to the athletes reflects the mission of USATF and makes the Twin Cities a natural choice for hosting national championships."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Carlson 2nd, Zivec 5th, Streich 6th, RNF 15th

In each of the culminating events of the 2008 cross country season, Minnesota representatives have something to celebrate heading into the holiday season.

Carlson 2nd at Club Cross ... Golden Gopher alum Andrew Carlson finished 2nd at the USATF National Club Cross Country Championships in Spokane, Washington on Saturday. Carlson finished just two seconds behind NCAA Division II champ Scott Bauhs who won the 10K event, held in blustery conditions with temperatures in the high 20s, in 30:47.

Carlson clocked 30:49.

Led by Carlson, the Flagstaff, Arizona-based McMillan Elite, the former Team USA Minnesota runner's new squad, won the men's team competition with 47 points, tipping Eugene, Oregon's Bowerman Athletic Club which scored 64.

St. Paul-based Run N Fun finished 15th in the men's competition with 488 points, improving on their 23rd-place finish a year ago.

You can read a race re-cap HERE. Individual results are HERE. Team results are HERE.

Injured Zivec 5th at Footlocker ... Despite a heavily taped right ankle, Jacub Zivec finished 5th in Saturday's Footlocker Finals. The Grand Rapids High School exchange student from the Czech Republic ran 15:29 over the 5K course in San Diego, California.

Solomon Haile of Maryland won in 15:15.

Zivec (pictured right) ran with the leaders through first mile, according to race reports, but like the rest of the elite 40-runner field, had no answer when Haile made his move in the second mile. Prior to the race, reports suggested Zivc would either be unable to compete or significantly slowed by his injury.

With the finish, Zivec has two wins (Nike Cross Nationals Heartland Regionals and Footlocker Midwest Regional) a runner-up finish (NXN Nationals), and the Footlocker Finals 5th place to celebrate from his abbreviated American harrier season. Zivec was only allowed compete as a junior varsity athlete in Minnesota State High School League competitions this fall.

You can read a race re-cap and see results from Dyestat HERE.

Flotrack has a post-race interview with Zivec HERE.

Streich 6th at Junior Olympics ... Janesville's Shane Streich finished 6th in the Midget Boys' division of the USATF National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships held in Mechanicsville, Virginia on Saturday.

Streich, racing against other eleven and twelve-year-olds finished just nine seconds behind race winner Samuel Blake. Streich clocked 10:27 over the 3K course.

Find results of all the Junior Olympic races HERE.

Photo by Randy Miyazaki/Track and Field Photo.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Report: Zivec Hobbled by Ankle Injury

Grand Rapids exchange student Jakub Zivec has an injury that may keep him from running in the Footlocker Finals today in San Diego, the high school cross country and track web-site Dyestat is reporting.

In THIS preview of the boys race, Dyestat's Steve Underwood reports that an ankle injury Zivec suffered at Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon has worsened enough that it may cause him to withdraw from the race and would seriously affect his performance, if he races.

Live web-stream video of the Footlocker Finals will be available HERE beginning at 11:00 a.m. CST.

FLASH: Zivec 5th at Footlocker Finals. (We should all be so injured!)

Find results HERE.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The End is Near ... for the Cross Country Season

The 2008 cross country season comes to a climactic close tomorrow at the Footlocker Finals, the USA Club Cross Country Championships, and the USA National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships.

Minnesotans will be racing to the finish line in each of those events.

Zivec Eyes Title ... At Footlocker Finals in San Diego, Grand Rapids exchange student Jacub Zivec (pictured) will be one of the favorites for the boys' individual title. Zivec finished second last weekend at Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon, but Reid Connor of Texas, who out-kicked Zivec and the rest of the final contenders at NXN, isn't competing at Footlocker.

Joseph Manilafasha of Colorado, whom Zivec topped in his Footlocker Midwest Regional victory two weeks ago, is a prime challenger as are Trevor Dunbar of Alaska and Solomon Haile of Maryland.

Dyestat, as usual, has impressive wall-to-wall coverage of the Footlocker Finals HERE.

Run N Fun, Individuals Race ... 2008 Team Circuit champions Run N Fun will compete at the USA Club Cross Country Championships taking place in Spokane. Last year, RNF finished 23rd in the event which saw 50 teams compete.

Among the Minnesotans also toeing the line in Spokane are former Golden Gopher and Team USA Minnesotan Andrews Carlson, competing for McMillan Elite, and Minnetonka High School alum Will Leer, competing for the Oregon Track Club Elite.

The info page for the meet is HERE.

Five Minnesota J.O. Champs Competing ... When the USA National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships get underway in Mechanicsville, Virginia, five Minnesota Junior Olympic champions will race. Grace Foster and Shane Streich will compete in the Midget Girls' and Boys' competition, respectively. Kaila Urick of Chaska will compete in the Intermediate Girl's race. Finally, Briana Berthiaume of Harris and Joel Johnson of Chisholm will compete in the Young Women's and Men's races, respectively.

The info page for the JO meet is HERE.

Photo by Randy Miyazaki/Track and Field Photo.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lehmkuhle, Carlson to Return to USA Half

Two of Minnesota top long distance runners will compete for the USA Half Marathon Championship early next year.

Team USA Minnesota's Jason Lehmkuhle and former teammate Andrew Carlson, a U of M graduate now based in Flagstaff, Arizona, are slated to compete at the 2009 USA Half Marathon Championships in Houston, Texas on January 13. Men's race headliners include defending champion James Carney, U.S. Olympic marathoner Dathan Ritzenhein, and former Twin Cities Marathon champion Dan Browne.

Lehmkuhle was the runner-up in last year's race, held in conjunction with the Aramco Houston Half Marathon, finishing just 11 seconds behind Carney in 1:02:32. You can read DtB's report on the 2008 race HERE. In 2008, Lehmkuhle was coming off his 5th place finish at the Olympic Trials Marathon held the previous November.

In 2007, Carlson ran 1:02:44 on the streets of Houston to finish 4th in the championship. You can read about his reaction to that performance HERE. On Thanksgiving Day, Carlson finished 4th at the 72nd Manchester Road Race, running the hilly 4.748 mile course in 21:58.2.

Read the full media release for the USA Half Marathon HERE.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

USATF-Minn's Whethem Talks Team Circuit

USA Track and Field - Minnesota recently announced its 2009 Team Circuit schedule. The nine-event road racing series kicks off on March 22 with the Human Race 8K in St. Paul and culminates with the City of Lakes 25K in Minneapolis on September 13. Our news story on the 2009 circuit is HERE.

Recently, we talked to USATF-Minnesota Long Distance Running Competition Chairman Ed Whetham about his take on the 2009 Circuit, including some tweaks made to the scoring system.

DtB: How do you feel about the make-up of the 2009 Team Circuit?

Whetham: I have mixed feelings about the Team Circuit for 2009. I like the races that were chosen for the team circuit this year, and I like that we had great participation at the selection meeting. In my opinion a good Team Circuit is comprised of races that you can see yourself competing, and I can see myself running all of these races. My thoughts of the circuit are mixed because I had a mental plan of how a meeting would unfold and what races would get selected, and none of the meetings I have conducted have turned out the way they did in my preparation. I was surprised by some of the points brought up, but that is what is great about having everyone in the same room to decide the circuit, feedback.

DtB: I see a marathon is back in the mix but the 5000 meter track event is out. What kinds of discussions took place around which races to include or not for 2009?

Whetham: There was little discussion about the track 5k. I enjoyed the event last year, but it was voted down by a significant majority. The only discussion that occurred with the marathon was in regards to the half-marathon. If Grandma’s was selected as the marathon, then we could not have Garry Bjorklund as the half-marathon. When Grandma’s Marathon applied to be the marathon championship, there was little to discuss, and the marathon was approved easily.

DtB: It seems like there are a lot of USATF-Minnesota Championship races this year. What do the races get from USATF-Minnesota for being a championship? And, what does USATF-Minnesota get from the races?

Whetham: We decided to offer eight USATF-MN Championship distances this year, with distances ranging from 1 mile to the marathon. When your raced is named a USATF-MN Championship race, the race is automatically placed on the Team Circuit. Based on past numbers, a race that is a championship race or on the team circuit, will experience an increase in participant numbers. USATF-MN receives a dollar amount from each championship race, which is matched by USATF-MN, and then awarded to the racing teams based on their performance at that race.

DtB: Is the number of events bidding for championships growing? What are the basics of the bid process?

Whetham: The number of races or events bidding this year as compared to last year was relatively the same. We are fortunate that we have a race or event bidding at each distance. There were only three distances that had competition for the bid.

The bidding process includes USATF-MN sending out a bid application to race directors in early November, and having interested race directors complete the bid and return it to USATF-MN before the team circuit selection meeting. Each bid application has to submit a dollar amount, and registration information, along with other information important to becoming a championship event. The application process is pretty simple, receive the application, complete the application and send it back to USATF-MN. We then include your race in voting for a USATF-MN Championship at the team circuit selection meeting.

DtB: We see that some of the scoring rules got tweaked for 2009. What were the issues there?

Whetham: I am actually curious to see how the new scoring system unfolds. A majority of the complaints that I received last year, were based on how difficult it was to gain ground on teams in front of your team if you were off to a slow start, or had a poor showing at a race. The concept of the new scoring system is to create opportunity for teams that got off to slow starts, or teams that had a poor showing at one race to gain ground on the teams in front of them. The “throwing” a race out concept should allow for this to happen. It will also benefit teams that have strong showings at all races. It is similar to some college courses, in that you can be a C+ student and get to throw out one test to become a B- student, and at the same time you can be an A- student, and throw out one test to become an A student. Scoring double points at the final race seemed to create some excitement for the final race during the cross-country circuit, so I figured why not apply it to the road racing circuit. I am quite happy with the new scoring system. I hope it creates some exciting team races towards the end of the season.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Rocks Now Training in Minnesota

Meet Minnesota's newest track and field power couple: Andrew Rock and Missy Buttry Rock.

The elite tracksters-- Rock won an individual World Championships silver medal at 400 meters in 2005, Buttry Rock has been a member of two USA World Cross Country squads -- have moved to Minnesota where they hope to revive their competitive careers.

Rock (pictured, left) is training at the University of Minnesota with former Golden Gopher quarter-mile stars Mitch Potter and Aaron Buzard under the direction of University of Wisconsin assistant coach Mark Guthrie.

Rock, a Wisconsin native who competed for the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse (where Guthrie was his coach), weathered a disappointing 2008 season that saw him DNF in the opening round of the Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon.

Rock sports a 44.35 PR for 400m.

In 2006, Rock was the USA 400m champion. He earned 4 x 400m relay gold medals at the 2004 Athens Olympics -- where he ran in the prelims -- and at the 2005 World Championship, where he carried the stick in the lead-off leg of the finals.

Guthrie framed Rock's 2009 objectives, where he'll likely race 3-4 times indoors prior to a fuller outdoor campaign as, "getting excited about training again and getting back into the blocks." Rock had been training in Madison, Wisconsin prior to the move to Minnesota. He and Potter trained together in La Crosse in 2005-2006.

Buttry Rock (pictured, right) joins the Team USA Minnesota long distance training group. The Iowa native and Wartburg College alum, has been hobbled by injures of late. While a collegian, she won three NCAA Division III cross country titles and 14 D3 titles total.

She has a PR of 15:37.48 for 5000 meters.

Buttry Rock made two USA World Cross Country teams while at Wartburg, finishing 4th in 2004 and 3rd in 2005 in the USA Cross Country Championships 4K races.

"We're glad Missy has joined our group," Team USA Minnesota coach Dennis Barker said in a media release. "She's had a series of injuries since she got out of college and we hope to help her return to competitive running in the coming year."

Photo of Rock by Randy Miyazaki/Track and Field Photo.

Photo of Buttry Rock courtesy of Team USA Minnesota.

Brophy Achman Elected Women's LDR Chair

Twin Cities Marathon, Inc. executive director Virginia Brophy Achman was elected chairwoman of the Women's Long Distance Running Committee of USA Track and Field at the organization's annual meeting in Reno, Nevada last week.

Brophy Achman (pictured), who was elected to a four-year term, succeeds Elizabeth Phillips who held the post since 2002.

The Women's LDR Committee has jurisdiction over women's off-track running events longer than 10K. The committee selects and conducts USA road racing championships for women, including the USA Marathon Championship.

"I am honored to be elected to this role and further share my passion for the sport of running and strengthening women’s long distance efforts here in the United States,” Achman said in a TCM media release.. "There is great untapped potential in our sport. It is our job to embrace these opportunities to further develop our future professional athletes, while offering positive associations with fitness. As Chair of USATF Women’s LDR , I will lead with passion, insight, ingenuity and perseverance."

Brophy Achman served as Vice Chair of the Women’s LDR Committee from 2006 through 2008. She is a founding committee member of the USATF Distance Project and currently serves as vice president and Chair of Strategic Planning for Running USA.

When She was a Candidate ... We ran a story about Brophy Achman's run for Women's LDR Chair HERE.

Photo courtesy of Twin Cities Marathon, Inc.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Langenfeld Named to Masters Hall of Fame;
Morse, Young Earn USATF Road Awards

Proving that track and field -- jumping events included -- is indeed a lifetime sport, 73-year-old Tom Langenfeld of Edina, who has won 29 USA Masters titles in the high jump, was named to the USA Track and Field Masters Hall of Fame.

Langenfeld (pictured), who won USA Master titles in the high jump both indoors and outdoors this year, was part of a ten-member group inducted into the 162-member Hall of Fame at the recently completed USATF Annual Meeting held in Reno, Nevada.

The USATF-Minnesota Masters Track and Field Chairman won his first USA Masters title in 1975.

You can find a listing of this year's inductees HERE.

The rest of the members of the Hall are found HERE.

You can find a collection of DtB stories about Langenfield HERE.

Morse, Young Win Awards ... Masters road racing stars Dan Morse and Lloyd Young were named Outstanding Athletes of 2008 in their age-groups by the USATF Masters LDR Committee. Morse earned his accolades in the 55-59 age-group, while Young earned his in the 85-89 division.

DtB contributor Chad Austin recently interviewed Morse, HERE.

Photo by Thom Weddle.

Zivec 2nd At Nike Cross Nationals;
Eagle Girls 11th, Trojan Boys 18th

Jacub Zivec, the Grand Rapids High School exchange student from the Czech Republic, finished 2nd at Saturday's Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon.

Zivec (pictured above, #377) clocked 15:18 for the 5K course but was topped by Reed Connor of Texas who ran 15:13. Joash Osoro of North Dakota was third, also in 15:18.

Zivec, who had won the Heartland NXN Regional and Footlocker Midwest Regional in the previous two weekends, couldn't match Connor's finishing kick, according t race reports. Connor jumped the lead pack with 250 meters to go for his win.

MSHSL Class AA boys individual champ Lukas Gemar of Moorhead finished 53rd in 16:05. Class AA team champion Wayzata, the two-time Heartland Region champions, finished 18th 341 points.

A complete re-cap of the NXN boys' race is available, HERE, via Dyestat.

Eden Priaire 11th ... The Class AA girls' champions Eden Prairie, finished 11th in the meet with 262 points. The Eagles tied Dana Point the scoring, but lost to the California team on the tie-breaker.

Class AA individual titlist Cassie Opitz led Eden Prairie with a 35th place finish in 18:33.

A complete wrap-up of girls' competition is available, HERE, via Dyestat.

Photo by Randy Miyazaki/Track and Field Photo.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Zivec Begins Pursuit of Historic Double

Grand Rapids JV phenom Jacub Zivec will begin pursuit of an unprecedented Nike Cross Nationals/Footlocker Finals double on Saturday when he toes the starting line at the NXN meet in Portland Oregon.

Zivec has already won both the NXN Heartland Regional title and the Footlocker Midwest crown.

The Czech exchange student, who was only allowed to compete in JV competition during the MSHSL season, enters the final two weeks of the high school cross country "post-post-season" as the favorite for both national meets after edging Colorado's Joseph Manilafasha at Footlocker Midwest last weekend. Manilafasha was the top-ranked preo harrier in the nation going into last weekend's meet, according to Dyestat.

The Footlocker Finals are December 13, in San Diego.

Last year, Illinois prep Chris Derrick, now a freshman at Stanford, came closest to winning the boys double. He won the Nike meet -- called Nike Team Nationals at the time -- and was the runner-up at Footlocker. South Dakota's Ramsey Kavan did likewise in girls competition in 2004.

Other Minnesota individuals slated to compete at NXN are: MSHSL Class AA champ Lukas Gemar of Moorhead, Alexandria's Drew Paradis, and Willmar's Mahad Hassan for boys and Alexandria's Jamie Piepenburg for girls.

Eden Prairie, Wayzata Top 10? ... The Eden Prairie girls and Wayzata boys, this year's Class AA state champions, will compete at NXN with a shot at top-10 finishes in the meet.

The Eagles are ranked #12 in the Harrier Super 25 national poll, while Wayzata is ranked #14. The two squads each won the NXN Heartland titles.

The highest finish by a Minnesota girls' team at the Nike meet is Lakeville North's 19th place result in 2005. In the inaugural Nike championship in 2004, the Marshall High School boys placed 8th -- the top Minnesota boys' result all-time.

Last year, the Wayzata boys finished 20th in the meet.

Watch NXN on Saturday ... NXN will be web-cast HERE on Saturday with action in the championship races beginning around 12:30 CST. Find Dyestat's comprehensive preview of the meet HERE, where results will also be available on Saturday afternoon.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

USATF-Mn Announces 2009 Team Circuit

USA Track and Field - Minnesota recently unveiled its 2009 Team Circuit schedule and announced changes to the long-standing team road racing competition.

The 2009 Circuit will consist of nine races contested between March 22 and September 13 and include events as short as one mile and as long as a marathon.

The 2009 USATF Minnesota Team Circuit races are:

March 22 - The Human Race 8K *
April 25 - Get In Gear 10K *
May 7 - TC 1 Mile *
May 25 - Brian Kraft Memorial 5K *
June 20 - Grandma's Marathon *
July 25 - Lumberjack Days 10 Mile
August 2 - Hennepin Lake Classic 5K
August 9 - MDRA Minnesota 15K *
September 13 - City of Lakes 25K *

(Asterisks denote USATF-Minnesota Championships races.)

New Rules ... The meeting of USATF-Minnesota officials and Team Circuit stakeholders which chose the slate of races also modified some of the circuit's scoring rules.

In 2009, points will be awarded based on the number of teams competing at each race -- for example, an event with nine scoring teams would earn the winning team nine points, the runners-up eight points, the third place team seven points, etc. -- but teams will always earn a minimum number of points no matter how few teams participate in a given race. (In open competition, the minimum winner's score will be five points.) In 2008, team scores were based on the number of registered Team Circuit teams, no matter how many participated in a given race.

Also new is a rule that will allow each Team Circuit team to discard the lowest score earned during the circuit. Essentially, the nine-race circuit will be scored on each team's best eight races. Additionally, the City of Lakes 25K, the USATF-Minnesota 25K Championship, will earn doubled points for teams.

Finally, the number of scorers required at various race distances was modified. In 2009, five open runners will be required for a team score in events under 15K; three open runners will score in events 15K and longer.

In 2008, the 15K distance required five scorers.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Holidays with Team USA Minnesota

A snowy morning in Minnesota -- there's a new white blanket on the ground outside the DtB office window this morning, anyway -- seems the perfect day to note that the athletes of Team USA Minnesota will, as is their Christmas tradition, join the festivities at the Life Time Fitness Reindeer Run 5K this Saturday.

Since we need to get outside to shovel the DtB sidewalks, we'll quote the Team USA media release for details on the event ...

"Among participants dressed as reindeers, Santa Claus, elves and a variety of boxed presents, will be 12 Team USA Minnesota runners celebrating the season at the 21st annual Life Time Fitness Reindeer Run 5k on Dec. 6. The fun run starts at 9:30 a.m. at the Lake Harriet bandshell and goes once around the Minneapolis lake. The holiday favorite attracts more than 3,000 runners and walkers.

"Team USA Minnesota athletes who plan to join in the festivities include 2004 Olympian and three-time national champion Carrie Tollefson, four-time national champion Katie McGregor, 2009 World Outdoor marathon qualifier Matt Gabrielson, 2008 World Half Marathon runners Jason Lehmkuhle and Kristen Nicolini Lehmkuhle, marathoners/half marathoners Chris Lundstrom, Antonio Vega and Michelle Lilienthal, World Cross Country qualifier and steeplechase specialist Emily Brown, and new athletes Josh Moen, Macharia Yuot and Meghan Armstrong.

"'All of us on the team look forward to this event every year,' said Tollefson. 'It's a chance to run with our friends and families and to join in the camaraderie with thousands of Minnesota runners. One or two of us sometimes race the Reindeer Run but often times it is one of the first frigid weekends in December or there's a light dusting of snow. As a result, we don't usually put our game faces on and instead we just enjoy running with everyone else.'

"This is the seventh straight year the Team Minnesota runners have participated in the Reindeer Run, which supports the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve "Toys for Tots" program. The event also includes the Fisher-Price Kids 1k at 9:00 a.m., a 5k Walk at 9:40 a.m., and a costume contest judged by Santa and his helpers."

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

NCAA Photos -- By Sean Hartnett

DtB contributor Sean Hartnett took some fine photos at last Monday's NCAA Division I Championships. We've published his best shots of Minnesotans below, but you can find his full women's and men's galleries HERE and HERE.

Detroit Lakes native Hanna Grinaker, a Wisconsin junior, finished an all-America 44th at NCAAs

Junior Megan Duwell led the Gophers with an all-America 32nd place finish.

Gopher senior Gabriele Anderson finished 49th.

Winona High School alum Garrett Heath of Stanford shown early-on in his 33rd place run at NCAAs.

Minnesota senior Chris Rombough en route to his 17th place finish and Gopher-record third all-America effort.

Gopher sophomore Hassan Mead earned his second all-America award by finishing 31st.

Winona native Elliott Heath finished 112th for Stanford.

Minnesota junior Mike McFarland finished 171st.

Photos by Sean Hartnett.

Thanksgiving Poll a Turkey, Says Critic

Tom Church, the principal contributor to the Slab City Running Club's web-site, has taken issue -- fork in hand, tongue in cheek -- with our Thanksgiving Poll.

Church claims that we at DtB intentionally and maliciously promoted Gravy in our preview of the competition which unfairly allowed Stuffing and Mashed Potatoes (along with Pumpkin Pie) to supplant Turkey as the rightful Thanksgiving food favorite.

Church asserted that, "the poll's many structural and methodological problems reveal it to be, at best, a viral marketing effort to inflate the value of Gravy, possibly with the aim of destroying Turkey."

You can read all of his delicious article HERE.

Results of the poll can be found on the DtB sidebar.

We at DtB stand by our poll and its results. We welcome Mr. Church's scrutiny and expect it to show that DtB was blameless in its actions.

If, on the other hand, mistakes were made, we expect Mr. Church's criticisms to make future polls more fair and accurate for the sport ... and for Turkey, Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes, and Gravy.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Zivec Wins Footlocker Midwest Crown

Jacub Zivec, the Grand Rapids High School exchange student who was only allowed to compete as a JV runner in Minnesota State High School League sanctioned meets this fall, won Saturday's Footlocker Midwest Regional in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The Czech citizen, clocked 15:09 over the sloppy 5K course. He became the second Minnesotan to win Footlocker Midwest in the last three years. Hassan Mead of Minneapolis South won the 2006 title.

Zivec, who was barred from competing in varsity meets by the MSHSL because he was not part of a recognized international exchange program, closed a two-second gap on Joseph Manilafasha of Colorado in the race's final 200 meters for the victory.

Zivec was the only Minnesotan to advance to the Footlocker Finals in San Diego, California on December 13. The top ten finishers in the boys and girls' races advance to Footlocker Finals. Zivec has also qualified as an individual to the Nike Cross Nationals meet this weekend in Portland, Oregon.

Dyestat has a recap of the boys' race HERE, as well as full results.

Class AA individual titlist Lukas Gemar of Moorhead was the state's #2 finisher at Midwest in 28th place at 15:58. He was the race's top sophomore. Senior Drew Paradis of Alexandria was 33rd in 16:00; senior Jakob Lindaas of Moorhead was 50th in 16:10.

Dyestat's girls' recap and results are HERE.

Sophomore Julia Harrison of Mound-Westonka was 34th in 18:50; junior Emma Bates of Elk River was 46th in 19:07.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Stuffing Wins Tight Thanksgiving Battle;
Pumpkin Pie, Mashed Potatoes Tie for 2nd

Defending champion Stuffing edged Pumpkin Pie and Mashed Potatoes to win its second straight DtB Thanksgiving Poll championship today.

Stuffing, ranked #1 entering the four-day competition, earned 33% of the readers' votes.

Pumpkin Pie and Mashed Potatoes battled the defending champs throughout the competition, but ultimately tied for second with 29%. (As in collegiate cross country, ties in Thanksgiving Poll voting remain ties.)

2007 runner-up Turkey, though synonymous with the late-November holiday, finished 4th with 25%.

"I'm proud of the way we competed," Stuffing coach David Gates told DtB. "We won by a larger margin last year, but you never know how things will turn out in a tough competition like this one. A victory is a victory."

The bready side-dish tallied 52% of the vote en route to their 2007 title.

"The credit goes to the team," Gates added. "They're the ones who dressed for the competition. It's not like I gave them any sage advice that won it for them."

Gravy, which some observers thought might crack the top-3 this year, finished a distant 5th with 13%; Cranberries finished 6th with 12%. The two sides flip-flopped places from a year ago.

The 2009 DtB Thanksgiving Poll is scheduled to begin on November 27.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

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, just like we did at this time last year.

We're also going to re-run our Thanksgiving readers' poll: What are your favorite Thanksgiving foods?

(Find the poll on our sidebar.)

Defending champion (and #1-ranked) Stuffing is the food to beat again 2008. Last year's runner-up, Turkey, ranked #2, looks strong again this year and #4 Mashed Potatoes and #5 Pumpkin Pie can't be counted out.

We think underrated (and un-ranked) Gravy is primed for a break-out performance in 2008, but #6 Cranberries, we're afraid, will do well to finish in the top half of the field this year.

#3-ranked Apple Pie, of course, did not qualify for the Thanksgiving Poll, failing to advance from the perennially-strong Pie Sectional.

So vote in our poll ... enjoy your Thanksgiving ... and join us again on Monday!

Gobble! Gobble!

Ashley Nord Earns Rhodes Scholarship

Quoting from the Gopher media release ...

"Ashley Nord cleared 13 feet as a pole vaulter for the Minnesota women’s track & field team last spring. Over the weekend, the Rapid City, S.D. native vaulted into an elite category accomplished by only the best and brightest scholars in the world.

Nord received word that she was chosen as a Rhodes Scholar, one of just 32 chosen in the U.S. this year. Nord graduated with a degree in astrophysics last May and is completing two more degrees in physics and global studies this fall. She will pursue a doctorate in physics at Oxford University in England.

In her pole vaulting career with the Golden Gophers, Nord was a member of three Big Ten championship teams and advanced to the NCAA Midwest Region Championships in 2007 and 2008. The four-time varsity letterwinner finished her career ranked fourth in the event in both the indoor and outdoor Minnesota record book."

Find the media release from the Rhodes Trust HERE.

Read today's Star-Tribune story by Rachel Blount about Nord HERE.

Read a Gopher Sports feature story on Nord HERE.

Photo of Nord courtesy of the U of M.

NCAA Wrap-Up: Minnesotans at the Show

Before we put the NCAA meets behind us and prepare for the holiday weekend, we thought we'd post a listing of all the Minnesotans who competed at yesterday's NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.

Let us know if we've missed anyone ...

Megan Duwell, Minnesota, 32nd in 20:36
Hanna Grinaker, Wisconsin, 44th in 20:44
Gabriele Anderson, Minnesota, 49th in 20:48
Megan Brandeland, Princeton, 52nd in 20:50
Amy Laskowske, Minnesota, 94th in 21:10
Mallory Van Ness, Minnesota, 116th in 21:19
Heather Dorniden, Minnesota, 135th in 21:28
Jamie Cheever, Minnesota, 164th in 21:41
Sarah Price, Michigan State, 171st in 21:45
Bria Wetsch, Oregon, 184th in 21:50
Felicitas Mensing, Minnesota, 236th in 22:37

Chris Rombough, Minnesota, 17th in 29:54
Hassan Mead, Minnesota, 31st in 30:06
Garrett Heath, Stanford, 33rd in 30:08
Ben Blankenship, Minnesota. 100th in 30:55
Elliott Heath, Stanford, 112th in 31:00
Michael Krish, Georgetown, 117th in 31:02
Matt Barrett, Minnesota, 160th in 31:23
Mike McFarland, Minnesota, 171st in 31:27
Tom Burke, William and Mary, 195th in 31:45
Ben Puhl, Minnesota, 214th in 32:00
Mike Torchia, Minnesota, 231st in 32:25

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rombough 17th; Gopher Men 15th at NCAAs

Golden Gopher senior Chris Rombough finished 17th at the NCAA Championships today, becoming the Gopher's first-ever three-time All-American in cross country. Rombough was the top Minnesotan, finishing in 29:54.

Hear our exclusive interview with Rombough below ...

“I’m proud of Chris,” Gopher head coach Steve Plasencia said in a media release. “He’s a strong runner who loves cross country. He kept pounding away, moving up through the field. We are going to miss him.”

Hassan Mead of Minnesota placed 31st in 30:06 and Winona High School alum Garrett Heath of Stanford placed 33rd in 30:08. Both were named all-American.

“Hassan fought back but he didn’t have a good day,” Plasencia said.

The University of Minnesota men finished 15th in the team standings with 385 points.

Behind Rombough and Mead, Ben Blankenship finished 100th, Matt Barrett was 160th, Mike McFarland was 171st, Ben Puhl was 214th, and Mike Torchia was 231st.

“Overall we had a mediocre performance today," Plasencia said of the team performance. "We didn’t have a lot of zip. I’m thinking that running on that very difficult course at the regional meet may have taken a lot out of us. We didn’t start the race well and that left too much to make up. I guess it says something, though, when we aren’t necessarily pleased with a 15th-place finish at the NCAAs. We had higher hopes, higher expectations, but we just didn’t have the depth to pull it off.”

Hear our interview with Plasencia below ...

The pre-race favorite Oregon Ducks won the team title, led by individual champion Galen Rupp. Stanford, powered by Garrett Heath and his younger brother Elliott, who finished 112th, placed 3rd in the meet.

Find full team results HERE, individual results HERE.

Gopher Women Tie for 11th at Nationals

The University of Minnesota women's cross counry team finished in a tie for 11th at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana today.

The #6-ranked Golden Gophers tied with Michigan State at 336 points.

"“We ran a good team race today, though obviously we wanted to finish higher,” Gopher coach Gary Wilson said. “Strategically I thought we ran one of our best races of the year but a few teams like Stanford, Georgetown and Texas Tech had really, really good days. I am excited about extending that top-12 streak. I don’t think anyone realizes how difficult that is and what a great accomplishment for our program it is.”

Wilson talked to DtB about the meet and his team below ...

Junior Megan Duwell led the Gopher with a 32nd place, 20:36 performance over the 6K course, earning her all-American honors.

The Gophers only senior Gabriele Anderson was 49th in 20:48, junior Amy Laskowske was 94th in 21:10, junior Mallory Van Ness was 116th in 21:19, junior Heather Dorniden was 135th in 21:28, junior Jamie Cheever, an all-American last year, was 164 in 21:41, and grad student Felicitas Mensing finished 236th in 22:37.

The University of Washington women, the prohibitive pre-meet favorites took the team title with 79 points. Sally Kpiyego of Texas Tech became the first woman in NCAA history to win three cross country titles with her victory today.

Find full team results HERE, individual results HERE.

Top-8 Finish is Gopher Women’s Goal

Although a rival coach at today’s NCAA media conference indirectly suggested trophy potential for the #6-ranked University of Minnesota’s women’s cross country team at today’s Division I Cross Country Championships, Gopher coach Gary Wilson wasn’t buying it.

Told of Florida State coach Karen Harvey’s notion that six teams are fighting for four NCAA trophies today in Terre Haute, Indiana, Wilson preferred to laugh off the idea. He ticked off the teams he sees as stronger than his Golden Gophers: prohibitive favorites Washington, Harvey’s #2 Seminoles, #3 Oregon, and #5 West Virginia, #9 Texas Tech with two-time individual champ Sally Kipyego.

He didn’t mention #5 Princeton, but Wilson probably meant to.

“Who did she say the six were,” Wilson wondered?

Although Wilson’s Gophers were ranked as high as #4 earlier this season, the 24th-year Minnesota coach named bettering his program’s best-ever NCAA finish – the 9th place the 2005 team earned – as the proper goal for this year’s squad.

The Gophers are making their fourth consecutive NCAA appearance and their 12th total. They enter the meet, for the second year in a row, as the Big Ten and Midwest Region champions.

Wilson said the key to success, by whatever definition, would be strong running by his top two runners – junior Megan Duwell and senior Gabriele Anderson – and tightly packed running by his #3 - #7 runners.

“The run well as a group when they run together,” Wilson said of juniors Amy Laskowske, Mallory Van Ness, junior Heather Dorniden, and Jamie Cheever, and graduate student Felicitas Mensing.

The Gophers intend to run the same seven runners on Monday as they did at the NCAA Midwest Regional meet last weekend.

More Nationals Magic? … Last year, the Gopher men placed a surprise 8th at the NCAA Championships, powered by all-Americans Hassan Mead and Chris Rombough.

Today, they’ll be looking for a repeat of that nationals magic.

The team’s stars return – Rombough could become Minnesota’s first-ever three-time all-American, Mead, the Big Ten and Midwest Region champ, could race himself into the NCAA elite – and the #12 Gophers, who have improved meet-to-meet throughout the season, seem poised for a strong run.

Gopher men’s coach Steve Plasencia said Sunday his team is healthy. He plans to run the same seven runners today that competed at the NCAA Midwest Regional where the team finished an automatic qualifying 2nd: sophomore Mead, senior Rombough, sophomore Ben Blankenship, junior Matt Barrett, sophomore Mike Torchia, sophomore Mike McFarland, and senior Ben Puhl.

The Minnesota men will make its 20th appearance in the NCAA Cross Country Championships today. The Gophers have competed in 11 of the last 12 Championships, missing out only in 2006 when they stumbled at the Midwest Region meet they hosted.

The best NCAA finish for the Gophers was a fourth-place performance in 1968.

Heath Brothers Power #3 Stanford ... Winona High School graduates Garrett and Elliott Heath have been important contributors in #3-ranked Stanford's season so far. The Cardinal won their division of the Pre-National meet here in October and were runner-up -- behind #1 Oregon -- at the Pac Ten and West Regional meets.

Other Minnesota natives expected to compete at NCAAs include Detroit Lakes alum Hanna Grinaker of Wisconsin, Mankato Loyola grad Sarah Price of Michigan State, Prior Lake alum Megan Brandeland of #3-ranked Princeton, and Eden Prairie alum Ryan Little of #2 Oklahoma State.

Minnesota Weather in Indiana … Nationals morning has dawned breezy, rainy, and cool. The forecast predicts rain and show showers, 10-15 mile per hour winds, and temperatures in the low 40s will greet the Gopher men and women and the rest of the NCAA field later today. The course was dry and in great condition yesterday, but has endured precipitation that began here last night around midnight.

NCAAs on TV and the Web … The NCAA Championship will be broadcast live on CBS College Sports Network and streamed online HERE. Coverage will begin at 11:00 a.m. CST.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

NCAA XC: Reflections and Remembrances

It's NCAA Championship weekend again. Cross country teams from across the country have put the finishing touches on a long season of training, some hoping simply to hold on for one more race, others poised to surprise the competition with a perfectly timed peak. Whether you are talking about the Division I, II, or III level, the NCAA cross country meet is probably the single biggest day on the collegiate distance runner’s calendar.

The local running community looks on with interest. Saturday's DII and DIII races have come and gone, and we can celebrate the victory of a Minnesota woman in the DIII race. Many are curious to see how the Golden Gophers will fare on Monday, and some of us may be checking up on the old alma mater as well. For those of us who ran collegiate cross country, it is also a chance to look back and remember the journey.

For me, memories of NCAAs are bittersweet. I was a member of two NCAA championship teams at Stanford. Coached by current University of Oregon coach Vin Lananna, “the Machine” (as we called ourselves) was the dominant program of the late 1990s. Coach Lananna has done it again, taking an Oregon program steeped in tradition, and returning it to greatness.

When I think about my college team, I think about a great bunch of guys bonded closely by the pressures of performing on the course, and the greater pressures of a training regimen so intense that it pushed us either to become great or to crack.

I, unfortunately, usually fell into the “cracked” category. The best I could manage were my final two seasons, when I subbed in as a varsity runner at the district meet. I ran 6th or 7th on the team, which once was good enough for All-District honors, but never got me to the starting line at the national meet.

In 1997, I traveled with the team to Furman, South Carolina; I was the alternate – the guy who warmed up with the team and did the whole routine up until it was time to start the race, at which point, I stepped off to the side and assumed the role of cheerleader.

We won the meet. It was an incredible weekend to be a part of, and I truly cherish having been there with the team. But at the same time, it smarts that much more to be that close and not quite make it.

The disappointment of sitting out the national championship meet was certainly great, but it did not really take away from the experience of being a part of great teams. If I could go back and do it again, I would not have chosen to run for a team that was not quite as good, even if it meant I would have had more racing opportunities like the NCAA XC meet.

By running with the best, I learned how to push harder and dig deeper than I ever thought possible. I developed the humility to understand that the body can only be pushed so far before it rebels. Several of my teammates went on to run in the 2000 Olympics. I watched them qualify and compete with a great sense of pride.

The years that followed saw the typical post-collegiate dispersion and loss of contact. A couple of my teammates continue to train and race today. Most of them trained for another year or two after graduation, and then hung up the spikes. They felt like they had gone as far as they could in running. If there is a lesson to be learned from my experiences, it’s that at age 22 or 23, you are only beginning to come into your prime as a runner. I wonder what some of the guys who roundly whipped me meet-after-meet may have accomplished if they had continued to train with passion for another five or ten years.

If disappointment has a silver lining, it is found in the sense of possibility, the feeling of just missing something that could have been great, and being that much hungrier for a taste of success. I finished my collegiate career and turned a new page on running. Rather than staying with Coach Lananna and the Nike Farm Team, I joined a small club team called Hoy’s Excelsior, based in San Francisco. I ran cross country, road races, and eventually made it back to the track.

I did many of the same grueling workouts – six by a mile, or ten by a kilometer – and I continued to do them hard. However, I took more easy days in between, and I rested well before racing. Those minor adjustments took my career to a new level. Eventually, I ended up back in Minnesota and the marathon soon became my obvious niche.

When I watch NCAAs these days, it’s no longer with the envy of the guy who didn’t quite make it. I remember how hard it was just to make it there, and the pressure of having to time your training so well – to push yourself to new heights, and to balance there for that one day without stepping off the edge into the abyss of illness, injury, or overtraining. So when I watch, I feel pure unadulterated excitement to see such a mass of talented runners barreling along the course. The runners attack the race, fueled by miles and miles of base training, endless interval workouts, and the realization that, for a few moments, they are living their dreams.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bethel's Borner Wins Division III Title

Bethel University junior Marie Borner won the individual title at today's NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships. The reigning D3 indoor Mile champ ran down early leader Elise Tropiano of Amherst for the title.

The two-time MIAC cross country champion, clocked 20:43 over the serpentine Hanover College campus course.

University of St. Thomas senior Katie Theisen finished 13th in the race in 21:24

Listen to post-race audio with Borner (pictured) and her coach Jim Timp here ...

Borner is the seventh MIAC woman to win the Division III title, and the second in the last four years. Gustavus Adolphus College's Hailey Harren won in 2005, the Gustie's Sarah Edmonds won in 1992, Shelley Scherer and Anna Prineas, both of Carleton, won consequtive titles in 1987 and 1988, St. Thomas' Lisa Koelfgen won in 1986, and Macalester's Julie Kirtland won in 1984.

In team competition, St. Thomas finished 14th with 383 points, Bethel was 19th with 406, and Carleton finished 23rd with 471.

Middlebury College of Vermont won the team title with 179 points, Calvin College of Michigan was runner-up with 237.

Official results can be found HERE.

Photo by Charlie Mahler.

Mankato Men, Duluth Women 8th at D2

Led by Moorhead native James Krasja's 10th-place run, MSU-Mankato finished 8th at the Division II Championships in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. Krasja clocked 31:34 over the snowy 10-kilometer course.

The Mavericks scored 230 points, just six behind Queens (NC) and in front of the Colorodo School of Mines (254), a team they edged 108-115 at the Central Region meet two weeks ago.

Mankato entered the meet ranked 10th overall in the USTFCCCA poll and defeated Alaska-Anchorage and UMass-Lowell at nationals, two teams ranked ahead of the Mavericks in the final poll.

Junior Denise Mokaya was the second runner across the line for MSU, finishing 38th overall in 32:15. Freshman Dana Schmidt, and seniors Chad Janiszeski and Benjamin Klungtvedt rounded out the scoring.

Favorites Adams State won the team title with 67 points ahead of Western State's 88. After anouncing this week that he would turn pro after the season, Scott Bauhs of Chico State took home the individual crown in 30:23.

Full men's results are HERE.

Young UMD Shines ... In the women's race, freshman Morgan Place paced the University of Minnesota-Duluth to an 8th-place team finish. Place ran 21:49 over 6 kilometers, crossing the line 7th overall.

The Bulldogs finished with 249 points, sandwiched between Chico State (241) and Alaska-Anckorage (266).

UMD finished 4th in a talented central region to earn their first NCAA birth sinc 1994. They were ranked 11th in the final USTFCCCA poll.

Junior Liz Palkie, who finished 41st in last years national meet after qualifying individually, improved six places in 2008 with her 22:39 clocking. Bridget and Whitney Hines each ran 23:21 as the third and fourth Bulldogs.

All seven UMD runners have eligibility remaining for next season; all but Palkie have at least two years remaining.

Adams State won the meet with 79 points, taking both the men's and the women's title. Seattle Pacific Junior Jessica Pixler dominated the field; her winning time of 20:59 was 28 seconds clear of her closest competitor.

Full women's results are HERE.

Gleason, Ruon, Greeno are All-Americans at D3

Hamline University's Brandon Gleason (pictured, right), St. Olaf College's Dobuol Ruon, and Bethel University's Dan Greeno, the top Minnesota finishers in the NCAA Division III Men's Championships this morning, each earned all-American honors.

The award is conferred upon athletes finishing in the top-35 at the meet.

Gleason finished 13th in 24:47; Ruon was 22nd in 24:51, Greeno was 33rd in 24:59.

Listen to DtB's excluisive intereview with Gleason below. Gleason, you'll remember, was seriously injured in a collision with a vehicle while on a training run in the winter of 2007.

In team competition, St. Olaf finished 15th with 424 points; St. John's was 22nd with 533.

Cortland State of New York won the men's team title with 80 points; North Central College of Illinois was runner-up with 115.

Hamilton's Peter Kosgei won the men's race clocking 24:22.

Official results are HERE.

Photo by Charlie Mahler.

Reich Picks D3 Over Rhodes Scholarship

While we're waiting for action to commence at the NCAA Division III Championships here in Hanover, Indiana -- where it's cloudy and 24 degrees -- we wanted to make sure you saw the story Amby Burfoot wrote for Runner's World Online yesterday.

Burfoot, HERE, reported on Grinnell College senior and Mahtomedi High School alum Henry Reich's decision to eschew a Rhodes Scholarship interview in Minneapolis today in order to run with his teammates at the D3 meet.

Enjoy the story, then check back around 10:30 CST (or thereabouts) for news from the Division III Championships.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Follow NCAA Cross Country with DtB

Down the Backstretch is the place to be all "weekend" for coverage of the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Division I, II, and III.

DtB will be on-hand Saturday in Hanover, Indiana where Minnesota's top small college teams and athletes will compete in the Division III Championships. We'll post news, results and hopefully some photos and audio from the race course.

We'll also post highlights and results from the Division II meet in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania on Saturday where the Minnesota State Mankato men and University of Minnesota - Duluth women will toe the line. (Truth in advertising, we won't actually be there, ourselves.)

On Monday, we will be on site in Terre Haute, Indiana for the Division I Championships. We'll have reports on-line as soon as each race is completed and, as the day goes on, we'll add stories, quotes, photos, and audio.

So, stay tuned to Down the Backstretch for the latest NCAA news for Minnesota cross country fans!

Minnesota's Wilson, Mead Honored Again

Gary Wilson and Hassan Mead are two-for-two.

The Gopher women's coach, Wilson, and the star Gopher runner, Mead, were named Midwest Region Women's Coach of the Year and Midwest Region Runner of the Year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

The two earned matching honors from the Big Ten two weeks ago.

Wilson's women's team defended its Midwest Region title last weekend. His team is ranked #6 in country heading into Monday's NCAA Division I Championships.

Mead, who won the Midwest Region men's title, led a 1-2 finish for the Gophers there. Teammate Chris Rombough finished second in the meet. The Gopher men are ranked #12.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

High School Report: NXN and Footlocker

In all the action and hoopla surrounding the NCAA Championships -- D2 and D3 will be contested on Saturday, D1 on Monday -- we've been remiss with news about the state's top high school athletes who are now competing in the "post-post-season" phase of the 2008 campaign -- Nike Cross Nationals and the Footlocker Cross Country Championships.

Here's the latest, then, on the preps ...

-- Minnesota will be represented by at least two teams at the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon on December 6. Wayzata, avenging one its only defeats of 2008, topped Bismarck, North Dakota 62-65 to win the NXN Heartland Region boys championship. Bismarck won the Griak Invitational earlier in the season with 78 points; Wayzata finished 3rd at Griak with 155.

-- Wayzata boys' coach Bill Miles was named the Eastbay Coach of the Week prior to the Heartland meet. There's a nice interview with the long-time Wayzata coach HERE. Miles' Trojans were ranked #18 in the Harrier Super-25 poll prior to Heartland.

-- Eden Prairie won the Heartland girls' title 45-96 over Sioux Falls Roosevelt, and is the other Minnesota team sure to be on the line Portland. The 2008 Class AA champs placed three runners in the top-10, led by Class AA individual titlist Cassie Opitz who finished 5th overall.

The Eden Prairie boys could join the girls at NXN, too. The Eagles finished 4th at Heartland and are still eligible for one of four at-large berths to the Portland meet.

-- Minnesota will also send a passel of individuals to the NXN. The top five regional finishers not on a qualifying team earned trips to Portland. Grand Rapids' Jacub Zivec won the Heartland boys' individual title, pulling away from defending champ Joash Osoro of Bismarck in the final 100 meters of the 5K race to win in 15:24. Zivec, a Czech exchange student, was relegated to JV competition during the MSHSL season.

Also gaining national berths were Class AA champ Lukas Gemar of Moorhead, the 3rd place finisher in 15:37, Willmar's Mahad Hassan, 4th in 15:404, and Alexandria's Drew Paradis, 6th in 15:45. Jamie Piepenburg, also of Alexandria, who finished 3rd in the 5K girls' race in 18:08, is the state's lone female individual qualifier.

-- While regional competition for NXN continues elsewhere through the next two weekends -- you can keep track of all the action HERE -- many Minnesota preps are now turning their attention to next Saturday's Footlocker Midwest Regional in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Grand Rapids' Zivec and Class AA girls' runner-up Claire Guidinger of Winona are among the state's early entrants for the meet, found HERE.

The Footlocker Finals take place in San Diego, California on December 13.