Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cindy Brochman Passes Away After Year Long Battle With Cancer

The Minnesota running community lost one of it's most active and enthusiastic members this week as Cindy Brochman passed away after fighting cancer over the past year. Cindy died at her home on Sunday morning, surrounded by her husband Kevin, family and friends.

A memorial service will be held at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, January 10th, at Eagle Brook Church in White Bear Lake. Visitation will take place from 2:00 to 3:00.

For more information on Cindy's athletic career and her battle with cancer, read Chad Austin's interview at Running Minnesota, or visit Cindy's CaringBridge site, which Kevin continues to update.

Our thoughts go out to Kevin Brochman and all of Cindy's family and friends.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Happy Holidays and Thanks from DtB

Happy Holidays everyone!

On behalf of the humble little operation known as Down the Backstretch, let me wish all of you a happy, healthy, and relaxing holiday season. As much as we all love cross country, track & field, and road racing, it's now time to focus on family and friends rather than results and performances.

As we've done in the past, DtB is going to enjoy a holiday vacation in the next few weeks. We'll be back after the New Year, of course, getting you back on top of the sport and the budding indoor season.

Before we go, let me take a moment to thank some of the folks that made 2009 another fine year for DtB. First off, special, heart-felt thanks go to Adam Lindahl of TC Running Company and the Board of Directors at USA Track and Field - Minnesota for their support of DtB as its presenting sponsors. Without their generous support, DtB would likely not still exist. We'd also like to thank everyone who has advertised with us during the year -- your support is truly appreciated!

I'd also like to thank anyone and everyone who has contributed to DtB. Special thanks go to co-founder Pete Miller, fantasy maven Doug Cowles, photographer Gene Niemi, reporters and commentators Jim Ferstle, Chad Austin, Chris Marshall, Chris Lundstrom, Kevin Holubar, Sean Hartnett, and Bill and Tim Miles. Without the generous contributions of those folks and others, DtB wouldn't have been all that it was.

Finally, allow me to thank you, our readers, for making DtB an important part of your enjoyment of the greatest sport on earth. Your continued loyalty to DtB makes the job of covering all the track, road, and cross country action fun and rewarding.

So Happy Holidays everyone ... and see you next year!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

USATF Wraps-Up Championship Action

USA Track & Field held its final two national championships of 2009 last weekend-- the National Junior Olympic Cross Country Championships and the National Club Cross Country Championships.

Here's the Minnesota news ...

JOs ... At Junior Olympics in snowy Reno, Nevada, ten Minnesotans competed in the championships, according to USATF - Minnesota youth chair Chris Dallager. The meet was delayed for an hour due to snowy conditions.

Shaelyn Sorensen of Lake Elmo, running in the 4000m Youth Division (13-14-year-old) girls' race, finished 28th in 16:25. There's a photo of Sorenson racing in the snow in THIS photo gallery -- she is wearing bib #804.

Results from all the JO races can be found HERE.

Club Cross ... Minnesota was represented by the Collegeville Track Club at the National Club Cross Championships in Lexinton, Kentucky. The squad finished 40th overall with 1171 points. Zap Fitness won the meet with 60.

Collegeville's Aaron Beaber led Minnesotans at the Open Men's race, finishing 240th in 34:16 on the 10K course. Nikki Borner of White Bear Lake was the lone Minnesotan in the Open Women's race, finishing 128th in 22:59 on the 6K course.

Thom Weddle, 71, of Minneapolis finished 260th in the Masters race and, as the lone runner in the M70 division, won his age-group in 46:21 for 10K.

Complete Club Cross Country results can be found HERE.

Photo: Collegeville at Club Cross Country Championships, courtesy of Joe Papin.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

USATF - Minnesota Honors Athletes

The Minnesota Association of USA Track & Field announced its Athletes of the Month for November and December yesterday: Maria Hauger and Aaron Bartnik earned the organization's November honors, while Hassan Mead and Marie Borner were the December honorees.

Hauger, a freshman at Shakopee High School, was recognized for her win in the Class AA girls’ race at the Minnesota State High School League State Cross Country Meet on November 7 in Northfield. Hauger ran the 4-kilometer course in 14:41 to earn a one-second victory over Elk River’s Emma Bates.

Bartnik, a junior at Eden Prairie High School, was honored for his victory in the boys’ Class AA race at the MSHSL State Meet. Bartnik clocked 15:56 in the 5K race for a two-second win over Woodbury’s Marty Joyce, which led Eden Prairie to its first-ever boys' state cross country title.

Mead, a junior on the University of Minnesota men’s cross country team, was honored for finishing 16th at last month’s NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana. Mead, the Big Ten champion earlier in the season, earned All-American honors for the third time in his career and led the Gophers to a 24th-place team finish.

Borner, a senior at Bethel University, was recognized for her runner-up finish at the NCAA Division III Championships in Cleveland, Ohio. Borner, who won the Division III title in 2008, clocked 21:46 over the 6K course. Wendy Pavlus of St. Lawrence University (NY) won the race in 21:28.

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dorniden In, Tollefson Out at Team USA Minn.

As one Minnesota superstar arrives, another has departed.

Team USA Minnesota has added the most decorated Minnesota collegiate middle distance runner this decade to its roster, just as the organization has said good-bye -- for now at least -- to the state's top collegiate runner of the 1990s.

Heather Dorniden, an NCAA champion and a nine-time all-American at the University of Minnesota, has joined the Twin Cities-based post-collegiate training center, the organization announced last night.

Carrie Tollefson, a five-time NCAA individual champion in the 1990s and a 2004 Olympian during her time with Team USA, however, is no longer part of the program. Tollefson, who is expecting a child in April, recently left the program she was an original member of.

Arrival ... Dorniden joins former Gopher teammate Emily Brown as well as Katie McGregor, Kristen Nicolini Lehmkuhle, Meghan Armstrong, and Michelle Lilienthal Frey on the women's side of the Team USA Minnesota program.

Dorniden brings an impressive resume to her professional career and to Team USA Minnesota. She sports PRs of 2:01.05, 4:17.68, and 4:38.80 in the 800m, 1500m, and mile, respectively. She won the NCAA Indoor title at 800m her freshman year, and was an all-American in every other NCAA track meet -- indoors and outdoors -- in the following years.

Along with her NCAA accolades, Dorniden is a two-time USA Championship semi-finalist.

"Heather is a great competitor," Team USA Minnesota coach Dennis Barker said in the media release announcing Dorniden. "Minnesota track fans have enjoyed watching and supporting her throughout high school and college. I'm looking forward to working with her. She has a good range of speed, strength and endurance and will be a great addition to our group."

Dorniden completed her eligibility for the Gophers during this fall's cross country and will graduate later this month with a degree in kinesiology and psychology. She is currently pointing to the USA Indoor Championships in late February.

The Team USA Minnesota media release about Dorniden is HERE; her Team USA Minnesota bio is HERE.

Departure ... Tollefson's departure came as a surprise to many local distance running fans. The thirteen-time MSHSL champion from Dawson was no longer listed on the Team USA Minnesota web-site in recent weeks, due to what organization president Pat Goodwin characterized has a "leave" from the program.

"Carrie decided to take a leave from the team during her pregnancy and asked to be removed from the web site as well." Goodwin told DtB. "She has not 'retired' but is waiting until after the baby comes to decide what she will do."

When Tollefson announced her pregnancy in October, she vowed to return to competitive running afterward with a return trip to the Olympic Games as her goal. Recent events haven't changed that desire.

" ... I have every hope and intention on coming back and doing better then ever," Tollefson told DtB. "With the injuries and setbacks I have had over the past couple of years I feel like I have so much more to achieve and now it will be even more fun as a mom."

"As far as the team," Tollefson continued, "I am officially off Team USA Minnesota, but it has been a great supporter of my career as have all of the sponsors of Team USA Minnesota. But as of now, my post baby training plans are still a work in progress."

Even during her pregnancy, Tollefson has been taking steps to improve her health and strength as a runner:

"Kristi Hermann at Accua is training me on the underwater treadmill 2-3 times a week along with strength training and I have also been connected with Bill Welle, who works with many high profile athletes to develop their speed and agility. Bill and I have been working hard on that since this summer and I have seen a huge improvement already."

Tollefson says she continued to run with Team USA Minnesota's McGregor and former Team USA-er Jenelle Deatherage until recently, when she moved all of her running training to treadmills.

There's a recent "Life to the Max" video segment on Tollefson's training HERE.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Big Ten Indoor Championships Tickets on Sale

Tickets for the 2010 Big Ten Men's Indoor Track & Field Championships to be held at the University of Minnesota Fieldhouse on February 27-28, will go on sale to the general public today, Gopher athletics department officials announced.

All-session tickets are priced at $12 for adults, $7 for students and seniors, and may be purchased online at http://www.gophersports.com/, in person at the athletics ticket office in Mariucci Arena, or by calling 1-800-U-GOPHER or 612-624-8080.

"With just 1,500 all-session tickets available, we fully expect that the championship will be a complete sellout," Minnesota associate athletics director and championship manager Marc Ryan said. "As a result, we are encouraging fans interested in attending what we believe will be one of the nation's finest indoor track & field competitions of the 2010 season to purchase their tickets as soon as possible."

The all-session ticket includes admission to both days of the championship. Competition is slated to begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 27, and at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 28.

Single-session tickets, if available, will not go on sale until the week of the championship on Monday, Feb. 22.

The Minnesota men's track & field team will be out to defend its Big Ten Indoor title. The Gophers ran away with the 2009 Big Ten Indoor team championship with 135 points.

The 2010 Big Ten Women's Indoor Championship takes place the same weekend at Penn State.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Twin Cities to Open Registration in February

In a surprising change, registration for the 2010 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon will open on February 2, 2010, race officials announced yesterday afternoon.

Traditionally, registration for the early-October event has kicked off in April.

Twin Cities in Motion executive director Virginia Brophy Achman, the head of the organization that stages the marathon, offered a travel-planning explanation for the change in a brief media release.

"The earlier registration date will give marathoners from around the world the opportunity to include the Most Beautiful Urban Marathon In America in annual travel plans,” Achman said.

The change means registration for Minnesota's two largest marathons -- Grandma's and Twin Cities -- will likely be underway at the same time. Grandma's Marathon opens registration on January 14, 2010.

The Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon takes place Sunday, October 3, 2010. The race has typically filled within a month. Registration will be conducted online at mtcmarathon.org and will be capped at 11,000 runners on a first-come, first served basis.

Read the full TCM media release on the matter HERE.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

State Awarded USATF Regional Meets

For the second year in a row, Minnesota will host USA Track and Field's North Region Open Outdoor Track & Field Championships as well as the Mid-American Masters Outdoor Track & Field Championships, the organization announced recently on its Facebook page.

The meets will be held in conjunction with USATF-Minnesota's own Open & Masters Outdoor Track & Field Championships this coming summer.

Minnesota was awarded the events at the recently concluded USA Track and Field Annual Meeting in Indianapolis.

USATF-Minnesota hopes the events will draw athletes from beyond Minnesota's borders. The Mid-America Masters Region includes athletes from USATF's Dakotas, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri Valley, Nebraska, and Ozark associations. The North Open Region comprises Dakotas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Lake Erie, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri Valley, Nebraska, Ohio, Ozark, West Virginia, and Wisconsin associations.

"The potential is there to have a nice influx of athletes if we can get the word out early," USATF-Minnesota managing director Craig Yotter told DtB.

Results of the 2009 editions of the meets can be found, HERE, on RaceberryJam.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Roy Griak ... in Bobblehead Form!

You know you're fairly famous when you have a cross country meet named after you.

You know you're really famous when someone makes a bobblehead doll in your likeness.

Roy Griak's fame, in the Minnesota cross country and track world at least, will rise to that higher level next fall when, for the 25th running of the Roy Griak Invitational, the University of Minnesota will produce bobblehead dolls in Griak's likeness.

Coaches of teams that compete in the September 25, 2010 event will receive the bobbleheads as a gift, the University of Minnesota announced yesterday.

Griak (pictured), a U of M cross country and track letterwinner who graduated in 1949, was the men's country and track and field coach at his alma mater for 33 years from 1963-1996. He continues to work as an administrative assistant for the cross country and track programs.

Photo courtesy of the U of M.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Hamline's Ian Bauer Profiled

Hamline University senior all-American Ian Bauer, who led the Pipers to an MIAC team title and trip to the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships, was profiled by the College Sporting News recently.

Bauer, who sports a 3.90 GPA as an Economics and Business Management major, earns high praise from coach Paul Schmaedeke in the article by Rich Meis.

"Ian is one of the most thoughtful and dedicated trainers I have worked with,” Schmaedeke said. “He has talent, but he is good because he had made himself good. Ian is a great competitor who always makes sound tactical decisions when he races."

Read the full profile HERE.

Photo courtesy of Hamline University.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Eden Prairie Boys Nip Wayzata Again

The close battles between the top two boys' teams in the state -- Class AA champions Eden Prairie and Class AA runners-up Wayzata, the state champs in 2007 and 2008, have been a major storyline of the 2009 Minnesota high school cross country season this year.

Prior to this weekend, the two nationally ranked teams had run against one-another three times in the "post-season," with Eden Prairie winning all three tight contests.

In October, EP topped the Trojans 25-41 at the Section 6AA meet. At State in early November, the Eagles won their first-ever Class AA cross country title with a 47-57 win in Northfield over Wayzata. At the Nike Cross Nationals Heartland Regional a week later, EP won again, 61-74, as both teams qualified for the NXN finals.

Saturday, in far away Portland, the two teams met for a fourth and final time in the late fall. Once again, Eden Prairie prevailed in a close-fought battle against Wayzata at the NXN finals. Eden Prairie scored 297 points to finish 14th at NXN. Wayzata tallied 312 for 16th. Eden Prairie's Aaron Bartnik, the Class AA individual titlist, led his team -- and all Minnesotans -- with a 31st-place finish in 15:47.

Complete NXN boys results can be found HERE.

In girls' competition, Class AA state champions Elk River, the lone Minnesota team in NXN's girls' race, finished 20th with 418 points. Class AA individual champ Maria Hauger of Shakopee led the state's girls at the race with a 48th-place finish in 18:43.

Des Moines Dowling Catholic's Katie Flood, the reigning Griak Invitational champion, won the NXN individual title in 17:48.

Find complete NXN girls' results HERE.

Find NXN photos, video, and other interesting stuff HERE.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Minnesotans Take the Nike Nationals Stage

The Minnesota high school cross country season ends tomorrow morning in Portland, Oregon.

There, on the Portland Meadows cross country course, the last home-state harriers still donning spikes, will compete in the sixth running of Nike Cross Nationals.

Class AA state champions Eden Prairie and runners-ups Wayzata will compete in the boys' race at NXN. Elk River, the Class AA girls' champs, with run against the best girls' team in the country in Portland.

Eden Prairie is ranked #15 nationally in the latest Dyestat Elite/ESPN Rise Fab 50 polls. Wayzata is ranked #20; Elk River is ranked #39 in the girls' poll.

Three Minnesota individuals will compete at NXN as well: Bloomington Jefferson's Jacob Sandry, Shakopee Class AA girls' champ Maria Hauger, and Class A girls' winner Maddie McClellan.

Last year, the Eden Prairie girls placed 10th at NXN. The Wayzata boys finished 18th. Grand Rapids exchange student Jakub Zivec was the boy's runner-up.

Last year's NXN results are HERE (boys) and HERE (girls).

The official Nike Cross Nationals web-site is HERE.

Dyestat has a thorough NXN preview HERE.

The complete Dyestat Elite/ESPN Rise Fab 50 poll is HERE.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Winding Down 2009 ... Winding Up 2010

While it might seem as though the 2009 running season is winding down, there's also ample evidence that the 2010 season is winding up ... Twin Cities in Motion (the former Twin Cities Marathon, Inc.) and Grandma's Marathon are both opening registration for two of their 2010 events.

At noon today, TCM will open registration for its inaugural Red, White, and Boom TC Half Marathon set for July 4, 2010. The race will take place at Boom Island in Minneapolis.

Find registration information HERE.

Grandma's Marathon has just opened registration for the 2010 Fitger' 5K, set for April 17 in Duluth. Grandma's is also getting set to open registration for the 2010 edition of its marathon, starting in mid-January.

Find registration information HERE.

And, There's More! ... Twin Cities in Motion annouced late this morning that it has added the Valentine’s Day TC 5K and the Irish for a Day TC 5K & TC 10 Mile to its grwing line-up of races. The organization, formerly known as Twin Cities Marathon, Inc., acquired the events from Marathon Sports in its effort to "bring greater opportunities to runners throughout the calendar year."

You can fnd TCM's media release about the races HERE.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Team USA Minnesota is Reindeer Running

Just as Santa has eight reindeer powering his sleigh each Christmas Eve -- foggy nights and Rudolph notwithstanding -- so too will Team USA Minnesota feature eight of its prancing runners at Saturday's 22nd Annual Lifetime Fitness Reindeer Run.

Representing Team USA Minnesota, for which Lifetime Fitness is a major sponsor, are:

-- Kristen Nicolini Lehmkuhle, the third-placer at the 2009 USA Women's Marathon Championship

-- Emily Brown, the 2009 USA Cross Country Champion

-- Michelle Lilienthal Frey, the fourth placer at the 2009 USA 25k Championships

-- Meghan Armstrong, a member of the 2009 U.S. Chiba Ekiden team

-- Jason Lehmkuhle, the third placer at the USA 20k Championships and sixth at the 2009 USA Men's Marathon Championship

-- Josh Moen, the second placer at the 2009 USA 10 Mile Championship with the fifth fastest U.S. time ever at the distance

-- Antonio Vega, the fifth placer at the 2009 USA 7 Mile Championships and eighth at the 2009 Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon

-- Matt Gabrielson, member of the U.S. marathon team at the 2009 IAAF World Outdoor Championships.

The event, which expects to draw some 3000 runners, stars at 9:00 a.m. with a kids run.

You can find details HERE.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Hauger 15th at Footlocker Midwest

MSHSL Class AA girls' individual champion Maria Hauger was the top Minnesota finisher in the seeded races of last weekend's Footlocker Midwest Regional cross country race in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

The Shakopee sophomore (pictured racing at the State Meet) finished 15th in 18:47 in the 5K race. Megan Goethals of Rochester, Michigan won the contest in 17:24.

The top ten finishers in the seeded events at the Footlocker regionals advance to the Footlocker Finals in San Diego later this month.

Katie Flood and Ashley Decker of Dowling Catholic High School in Des Moines, Iowa, the 1-2 finishers at the Griak Invitational this year, finished 3rd and 4th, respectively.

Full results of the girls' seeded race can be found HERE.

In the seeded boys' race, Shakopee junior Trent Lusignan was the top Minnesota finisher in 36th place with 16:21. Sophomore Lukas Verzbicas of Oakland Hills, Illinois won the race in 15:34.

Full boys' results are HERE.

Photo by Gene Niemi.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Smyth Second at Manchester Road Race

In another strong run in his budding road racing career, Team USA Minnesota's Patrick Smyth finished second at the Manchester Road Race held on Thanksgiving Day in Connecticut.

Smyth (pictured running the TC 10 Mile) clocked 21:41 over the 4.748 mile course. The Notre Dame alum was edged at the finish by Kenya's Haron Lagat who ran 21:40. Smyth earned $2500 for his efforts.

Teammate Matt Gabrielson was 14th in the race in 22:39.

After a flat open mile run in 4:30 and an uphill second mile split in 5:02, Smyth found himself in a pack of about a dozen runners nearing the race's half-way point.

"It was all down hill on the third mile," Smyth explained in a Team USA Minnesota media release. "My game plan was to take the lead during the downhill which I did. I put a little gap on the field but by mile three they overtook me again."

"After that I stayed in contention," he continued. "[I] was in the final three toward the finish, and picked it up down Main Street. But Lagat had an extra gear and beat me by a second."

Smyth, who is currently based in Chicago where he is attending graduate school, has had a sterling half-year on the roads since graduating from college in June. He finished 5th at the USA 10K Championship, 11th at the USA 20K and 3rd at the USA 10 Mile held in conjunction with the Medtronic TC 10 Mile.

Smyth will compete next at the USA Half Marathon Championships in Houston on Jan. 17, which will be his debut at the distance.

Complete results of the Manchester Road Race are HERE.

Photo by Gene Niemi.

Mashed! Stuffing's Thanksgiving Reign Ends

Make a bit more room on your plate for Mashed Potatoes!

The starchy side-dish out-polled two-time defending champion Stuffing in DtB's annual Thanksgiving Poll. Mashed Potatoes earned 25% of the vote to Stuffing's 22%.

Pumpkin Pie, a vegetable disguised as dessert, finished third with 20%, while Turkey, long considered the focal point of Thanksgiving foods, finished 4th with 17%

In all, a record 79 DtB readers voted in the poll.

Cranberries finished 5th with 10% of the votes. Gravy, the holiday's guilty pleasure, finished a distant 6th with 3% of the vote.

Mashed Potato coach Buddy Russet had nothing but praise for his team of pulverized tubers.

"I can't say enough about my spuds," Russet said from the team's training center in Idaho. " We finished third in '07 and were co-runner's up last year, so this victory is the result of three years of hard work. We come to the poll hoping to represent ourselves well every year -- to win it, well, that's just gravy!"

Stuffing coach David Gates tipped his hat to Mashed Potatoes.

"I congratulate the new champs, they deserve the title," he said. "I'm proud of my Stuffing team, too. We certainly don't feel like leftovers."

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving from DtB!

Gobble gobble, track and cross country fans!

It time again for us to shutter the DtB office for a few days to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. We hope each and every one of you have a pleasant holiday spending time with family and friends. We'll be back again on Monday with the latest news from the sport.

In the meantime, we want to extend our thanks to you, our loyal DtB readers, for continuing to visit our site and make the work of gathering Minnesota's track and field, cross country, and running news so rewarding.


The Annual Poll ... Of course, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving on DtB without the annual Thanksgiving Poll. Again, we ask you all to vote on your favorite Thanksgiving foods in the poll that you'll find on the left sidebar.

Before you vote, let us tell you what's at stake ...

#1-ranked Stuffing enters the competition hoping to win an unprecedented third straight Thanksgiving Poll title. After a heaping victory in 2007, when the side-dish earned 52% percent of the votes, Stuffing eked out a 33% to 29% win over co-runners-up Pumpkin Pier and Mashed Potatoes last year. Turkey, the runner-up in 2007, finished 4th in 2008.

Thanksgiving Poll observers are calling the 2009 race too close to call, noting each of last year's top-4 finishers have a chance to be the centerpiece in this year's competition. (Gravy and Cranberries, which have never crack the top-half of the results in the poll, are expected to battle for 5th place in the six-food competition.)

Voting in the Thanksgiving poll is open until one minute before midnight, Sunday, November 29.

Armstrong, Carlson Power USA Ekiden to 5th

Team USA Minnesota's Meghan Armstrong and former Golden Gopher star Andrew Carlson propelled the USA team to a 5th-place finish at the International Chiba Ekiden in Japan on Monday.

The USA clocked 2:09:42 for the 42.195K, six runner, coed relay. Japan won with 2:05:58.

Running the second leg of the race, Armstrong clocked 16:18 for 5K, which moved the USA squad into 7th place. Carlson, running the 5th leg of the event, clocked 29:20 for 10K and handed off the relay sash to the USA anchor in 4th place.

USA Track and Field has the full story of the race HERE.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gopher Women 10th at NCAAs

Hear Gopher women's coach Gary Wilson talk about his 10th place team here ...

From left, Stephanie Price, Kayla Wagner, Elizabeth Yetzer, Nikki Swenson, Megan Duwell, Amy Laskowske, and Heather Dorniden.

Photo by Randy Miyazaki.

Monday, November 23, 2009

NCAA D1 Championships Bullet Points

Here's the Minnesota low-down from the NCAA Division I Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana this afternoon ...

-- The University of Minnesota women placed 10th.

-- Gopher senior Megan Duwell placed 7th overall and was named an All-American.

-- Gopher junior Hassan Mead placed 16th overall and was named an All-American.

-- The Gopher men placed 24th.

-- Henry Sibley alum Chris Stublaski was the 7th-man for NCAA Men's Champions Oklahoma State.

-- Hopkins alum Mike Krisch of Georgetown was 32nd overall.

-- Winona High School alum Elliott Heath 37th overall for Stanford.

Important NCAA Links ...

-- Women's Team Results

-- Women's Individual Results

-- Men's Team Results

-- Men's Individual Results

-- Gopher women's wrap-up.

-- Gopher men's wrap-up.

Photo of Hassan Mead (#373) by Randy Miyazaki.

Women's NCAA Early Report

They're off in the women's race. After the first K, covered by the favorites Jenny Barringer of Colorado and Susan Kuijken of the Netherlands and Florida State in 3:04. The rest of the field packed in behind with the lead duo already having opened a big gap as the top two passed the mile in 5:02.

Team favorites, the University of Washington, have team leader Kendra Schaaf trying to get up to the top two only 3 seconds behind. The top duo went through 2K in 6:17, and 3K 9:38. Just past this point Barringer suddenly slowed all of a sudden and fell back. Kuijken, who runs with a "floating rib" that requires cortisone injections because it stabs her diaphram, has taken command of the individual race. Barringer continued to fall back, collapsed and fell to the ground, got up and kept going.

18 minutes into the race Illinois' Angela Bizzarri and Schaaf blew past Kuikjen. Down the homestretch Bizzarri pulled away to win in 19:46.8. Schaaf finished second and Kuijken held on for third. Barringer finished in the pack well back of the leaders with a kick down the homestretch. The University of Minnesota's Megan Duwell finished 7th to lead the women to a 10th place team finish.

"I thought I had a shot, but I wasn't sure," said Bizzarri of the individual race. "I tried to stay in touch with the leaders and see how it turned out. I'm so excited. It's unbelieveable. I really don't have words for it." Same might be said for the Villanova team who dominated the women's race, upsetting defending champion, Washington.

"I didn't feel so good," said Barringer. "Every time I tried to pick it up, I had to stop. It's a mystery. That's what we'll be doing the next several weeks, figuring out what happened."

Women's team results are available Here. Women's individual results are Here.

Read about the Gophers Here.

Early report from NCAA

At 5K Sam Chelanga, a Kenyan running for Liberty University, had a 30 second lead with a time of 14:09. Hassan Mead of MN was in the second group trailing Chelenga about 40 seconds back. Oklahoma State, running with that solid pack that got them to the NCAA's was the top team at 5K. Chelanga continued to push the pace through 6K, putting another 10 seconds on Stanford's Chris Derrick, who led that pack. Mead was in the group just behind.

U of M fans were very visible on the course in Indiana with their large flags flying in the breeze. Chelanga leads by 45 seconds at 7K. At 8K, in 22:46, Chelanga looks like he has the race wrapped up with a 39 seconds lead. Oklahoma State has similar command of the team race.

Chelanga wins in 28:41. Mead finished back in 16th in 29:51. Elliott Heath of Stanford and Winona was further back, finishing 37th in 30:20. The U of M team finished 24th in the team race with 493 points. As the post race interviews were taking place in the finish chute, Mead could be seen in the background walking with his arms around the shoulders of two of his teammates as the trio compared notes on the experience.

Chelenga won by 22 seconds. "I'm glad I finally won it," Chelenga said afterwards. "Today I just wanted to do something. I was ready."

David McNeill, an Aussie running for Northern Arizona, was a surprise runner-up in 29:06. "I went to the front from the gun," he said. "And hung on for as long as I could. I got around the last bend and I just went for it. (I knew going in that) a top three was going to be a big ask, but it just goes to show that if you believe in yourself anything can happen."

Derrick, who was third, was disappointed most in the failure of Stanford to win the team title. "We just kind of bombed," Derrick said. "It was something we really didn't expect." As for the individual race, where Derrick was also favored, he added: "I thought 14:09(for the first 5K) was suicide. Congratulations to Sam. He just ran really amazing. I tried to drop David, but he was really strong. I just didn't have anything left."

Ryan Vail, the captain and team leader for Oklahoma State, who scored 127 points for the team win, it was the first title for their school since 1954. "This has been our goal ever since we got to Oklahoma State," said Vail. "I really feel proud."

Men's team results are Here. Men's individual results are Here.

Read about the Gophers Here.

NCAA Monday ... Waiting for the Starting Gun

As we await the start of the NCAA Division I Championships -- the men get underway at 11:08 a.m. CST while the women take off at 11:58 -- we draw your attention to the official previews for the University of Minnesota teams.

Read about the Gopher women, who are seeking their 5th-straight top-12 finish at NCAAs, HERE.

Read about the Gopher men and star Hassan Mead HERE.

The meet will be web-cast, HERE, starting at 11;00 a.m. CST.

Technology Willing ... DtB will have the Minnesota news from NCAAs as soon as it happens. (Thanks for your patience with us over the weekend!)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Technical Difficulties

We've been having some technical problems with Blogger and haven't been able to provide the in-depth coverage that we had planned for this weekend's NCAA Cross Country Championships. We hope to have the problem resolved and resume complete coverage soon. Thanks for your patience.

NCAA D2 Championships Bullet Points

Until we're able to resume full coverage, here are some highlights from the Division II Championships in Evansville, Indiana:

• Morgan Place of UMD finishes 6th
• UMD women finish in 7th place
• Womens recap here
• Womens results here
• Mens recap here
• Mens results here

NCAA D3 Championships Bullet Points

Until we're able to resume full coverage, here are some highlights from the Division III Championships in Cleveland:

• Marie Borner of Bethel finishes 2nd
• Carleton's women are 11th
• Dan Greeno of Bethel is 10th
• St. Thomas men are 19th

Minnesota women's all-Americans at D3:
• Marie Borner, Bethel, 2nd
• Simone Childs-Walker, Carleton, 11th
• Laura Roach, Carleton, 25th
• Margot Branigan, Hamline, 32nd

Men's D3 all-Americans from Minnesota
• Dan Greeno, Bethel, 10th
• Dobuol Ruon, St. Olaf, 24th
• Ben Sathre, St. Thomas, 26th
• Ian Bauer, Hamline, 27th

Full results are here.

Photos are here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

FLASH: Borner Runner-Up At NCAAs

Defending champion Marie Borner of Bethel University finished second, unofficially, at this morning's NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships.

Wendy Pavlus of St. Lawrence won the race.

Unofficial individual results are HERE.

The University of Wisconsin Eau Claire won the women's team title.

Carleton College finished 11th.

Unofficial team results are HERE.

Listen to Borner in her own words ...

We're having a few technical difficulties at the moment, so for full results, you can go Here. We'll be back online with a full report as soon as possible.

LIVE: NCAA Division III Championships

Down the Backstretch is on-site at the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships in Cleveland, Ohio this morning. Weather conditions are ideal for November racing -- 50 degrees and calm, albeit cloudy.

The women race will get underway at 10:00 am CST; the men will follow at 11:00 a.m.

We plan to post flash news immediately after each race and the file fuller reports shortly after the action is over.

Stay tuned for the NCAAs on DtB!

As We Wait ... You might enjoying remembering, HERE, just how many Minnesota women have won D3 individual titles ... seven women representing Minnesota colleges and two Minnesota high school grads representing Luther College

Friday, November 20, 2009

Yes/No's Season-Ending NCAA Tripleheader

All good things must come to an end. As the college cross country season concludes this weekend, the 2009 Yes/No competition will end as well.

But, national meets abound this weekend. Division III will be hosted by Baldwin-Wallace College in Ohio on Saturday. Division II is taking place at the University of Southern Indiana the same day. And finally, Division I will be held Monday at Indiana State.

The Yes/No contest will go out with a bang - we have three separate questions this week. We will track a top area runner in each division in their respective races. Just how good are these athletes? All three won their conference and regional races and have combined to win 15 of 18 races this year.

Let us know how well these All-Americans will do at Nationals:

Yes/No D1: Since the national meet distance increased to 10k in the 1970's, the highest place a Gopher athlete has finished is 13th. Will Hassan Mead finish in the top 12 on Monday?

Yes/No D2: Will Morgan Place break her own UMD record for best place at a National Meet and finish in the top 6 on Saturday?

Yes/No D3: Will Marie Borner of Bethel University repeat as National Champion on Saturday?

Hassan Mead is coming off dominating performances at both the Big Ten Championship and the Midwest Regional Meet. Mead has achieved All-American status at his first two NCAA National Cross Country meets, finishing 43rd in 2007 and 31st in 2008.

Morgan Place is undefeated against D2 runners in 2009. She finished 7th at the 2008 NCAA National Cross Country Meet. Place has won 13 of 16 college cross country races in her career.

Marie Borner is the defending D3 National Champ in Cross Country. Borner has also won National crowns in indoor track (mile) and outdoor track (1500). Borner’s main competitor seems to be Ayla Mitchell from UW-Oshkosh. Mitchell finished 3rd to Borner in cross country last year. In 2009, Borner defeated Mitchell at the Griak meet but Mitchell was able to win the Brooks Invitational on her home course, finishing seven seconds ahead of Borner.

To play our game, type your "yes" or "no" answers into the subject line of an e-mail and send it to us at DtBFantasy [AT] gmail [DOT] com before 10:00 A.M. CST, Saturday, November 21. Please put your answer in the subject line of the e-mail and make sure your full name appears somewhere in the e-mail. Each question will be worth one point.

My D1 answer: Yes

My D2 answer: Yes

My D3 answer: No

The previous Yes/No question was: Will Morgan Place win the D2 Central Regional Cross Country meet on Saturday? The correct answer was “yes” as Place ran away from the field, winning by 19 seconds. Five contestants answered correctly.

Here are the current Yes/No leaders for the year:

Doug Cowles - 27
Chad Bjugan - 20
Ryan Aylesworth - 19
Mitch Van Bruggen - 18
Lori Anne Peterson - 18
Nate Porath - 18
Mick Hondo – 18

You can find all of DtB's contest results and leaderboards at DtB Fantasy Corner.

Good luck and thanks for playing Yes/No on DtB!

Kara Goucher Talks About "Running By Feel"

Competitor's Matt Fitzgerald talks to Kara Goucher Here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

NCAA Championship Week Links

We're hustling to get on the road to Ohio and Indiana for the NCAA Division III and I meets this weekend, so we'll quickly post day's major news links before we start the drive.

-- The U of M's Gary Wilson was named Midwest Region Women's Coach of the Year.

-- The Gopher's Hassan Mead was named the Midwest Region Athlete of the Year.

-- Carleton will enter the NCAA D3 meet as the top-ranked women's team from Minnesota at #12.

-- St. Thomas will enter the men's D3 meet as the top-ranked Minnesota men's team at #18.

MSHSL Cross Country Championships Gallery

Dennis Hahn has been chronicling track & field and distance running in Minnesota for decades. His new photo gallery on the USATF Minnesota site captures all of the spirit and emotion of the 2009 MSHSL Cross Country Championships.

Photo by Dennis Hahn.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NCAA-Bound Gophers Ranked #13 and #29

When the University of Minnesota cross country teams race at the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana on Monday, they'll do so as the #13 and #29-ranked teams in the nation.

The Gopher women's team rose four spots to #13 in the newly released final poll of the 2009 season, thanks to their strong performance at the Midwest Regional in Springfield, Missouri. Only the third place finishers at the Big Ten Championships, the Gophers won big over conference runners-up Illinois at regionals to secure an automatic bid to NCAAs.

The Gopher men, who have been in and out of the national top-30 this season, are tied for #29 in the final poll. The youthful Gopher men earned an an at-large bid to the national meet after finishing 4th at the Midwest Regional.

Find the complete women's rankings HERE. The men's poll is HERE.

DtB at NCAAs ... Down the Backstretch will be on hand in Terre Haute with on-site coverage from the NCAA Championships! Join us Monday for meet highlights and comprehensive coverage of all the Minnesotans at NCAAs.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Goetzke, Wickstrom Win MDRA Grand Prix

Masters runners Kirt Goetzke and Andriette Wickstrom won the open divisions of this year's Minnesota Distance Running Association Grand Prix, which culminated at Rocky's Run earlier this month.

Wickstrom, 54, has now won the year-long racing circuit twice. She was the Grand Prix champion in 2005.

Goetzke's Grand Prix win is his first ever. He was the runner-up to Kirk Walztoni in 2008.

Nate Beaudin was the runner-up in men's open competition, while Scott Ramberg finished third. Leila McGrath was the second-place open female; Eileen Moran finished third.

The MDRA Grand Prix was contested over 13 races from January through November. Runners are judge on their ten best results during the year.

Complete results of the Grand Prix -- including age-group winners -- can be found HERE.

Registration for the 2010 MDRA Grand Prix is already underway HERE.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gopher Harriers Headed Back to NCAAs

Once again, a full complement of Gopher harriers will race at the NCAA Championships.

On Saturday, the #17-ranked University of Minnesota women's team earned an automatic spot on the NCAA starting line in Terre Haute, Indiana thanks to an emphatic 60 to 86 victory over Illinois at the Midwest Regional meet in Springfield, Missouri.

On Sunday night, the Gopher men earned an at-large invitation to nationals after finishing fourth in the Midwest. The men will make their 12th trip to NCAAs in the last 14 years. The women will attend "the big dance" for the 10th time in 13 years.

In addition, Golden Gopher junior Hassan Mead defended his Midwest Regional title running 30:22 for the 10K course.

Women Reaching Their Peak? ... The Gopher women won their third-straight Midwest Regional crown by running their best team race of the season. Megan Duwell led the squad with a runner-up finish to Illinois' Angela Bizzarri.

Behind Duwell, the Gophers put five runners in the top-20 -- Amy Laskowske was 9th, Heather Dorniden was 14th, Stephanie Price was 19th, and Kayla Wagner was 20th. No other team put four runners in the top-20.

"I didn't think we ran very well at the Big Ten meet in terms of being a pack," Gopher coach Gary Wilson told media after Regionals, "and we kind of faded at the end and I take blame for that."

"But today they all came together and did a great job." he said. "We had seven of the top 25. It was a great win for us. We just hadn't put it together all year, so today they did. Everyone was a fighter today and had a great group energy."

Nikki Swenson finished 21st for Minnesota; Elizabeth Yetzer was 25th.

The strong race has Wilson and his squad eager for the NCAA Championships and the possibility of improving upon the program's best-ever 9th-place finish there.

"I thought at the beginning of the year we could be a top-eight team," Wilson revealed, "which would be our best finish ever, and now we're ranked 17th and maybe we can be, we still have a shot at that."

"The kids' goal was to be in the top eight, but there are awfully good teams around up and down the line," he continued. "They key at the big dance is to just get in, keep your composure and not try to be a hero. Just run and see what happens."

Duwell is confident the team focus on the late-season will reap dividends at NCAAs.

"This season we really wanted to improve as the year went on and peak at the right time," the senior all-American said. "This win will give us a lot of confidence and a lot of momentum going into nationals."

A Seat at the Table ... After finishing 4th at the Midwest Regional on Saturday, the Gopher men were left to celebrate Hassan Mead's title defense and wait impatiently until Sunday night to learn whether they'd make the NCAA championships as an at-large selection.

The #29-ranked Gophers hoped their Midwest finish behind #2 Oklahoma State, #18 Oklahoma, and #27 Iowa State would be result enough to put them in the 31-team NCAA field and extend their season one more week.

The Gophers scored 125 points at the meet, trailing Oklahoma State's 50, Oklahoma's 71, and Iowa State's 109.

Scoring behind Mead were Matt Barrett who finished 15th overall, Ben Blankenship who was 28th, Pieter Gagnon 38th, and Mike McFarland 51st . Derek Storkel finished 66th and Paul Hilsen was 117th.

"We are certainly a bubble team. All we can do is wait and hope," Gopher coach Steve Plasencia offered post meet.

When the NCAA field was announced on Sunday evening, however, Minnesota was among the 13 at-large selections for the meet, where the team finished 15th last year and eighth in 2007.

Find complete Midwest Regional results HERE (women) and HERE (men.)

Find complete NCAA Championship field information HERE.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

FLASH: Gopher Men Make NCAA Field

The University of Minnesota men's cross country team has earned an at-large bid to the NCAA cross country championships.

On Saturday, the Gopher men finished fourth at the NCAA Division I Midwest Regional, where two teams earned automatic qualifying spots, but the team was among the 13 at-large picks announced by the NCAA on Sunday.

The Gopher women, who won their third-straight Midwest Regional title on Saturday, will also compete at the national meet on Monday, November 23 in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Find the complete NCAA D1 fields HERE.

In Division III ... The St. Olaf College and Hamline University men's teams earned at-large selection to this Saturday's D3 meet in Cleveland, Ohio. They'll join Central Region men's co-champions St. Thomas at the meet.

The St. Olaf women earned an at-large bid to the D3 meet, joining cross-Northfield rivals Carleton, the Central Region women's champs.

Find the complete D3 field listed HERE.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Short-Cut: Results' Links for November 14

Right here is where to find results for D1, D3, and NXN regional competitions ...


D1 Midwest Regional: Men's Results * Women's Results
Update: Gopher women three-peat, Gopher men 4th; Mead defends title.
Other D1 Regionals: Results Links
Update: Elliott Heath runner-up in West Regional.

D3 Central Regional: Men's Results * Women's Results
Update: Carleton women win, St. Thomas men tie for title; Borner, Greeno medalists.
Other D3 Regionals: Results Links

NXN Heartland Regional: Results
Update: Eden Prairie & Bartnik win ... Wayzata boys, Elk River girls qualify.
Other NXN Regionals: Results Links


USATF Minnesota Junior Olympic XC: Results

Friday, November 13, 2009

Gophers Face Challenges at Midwest Regional

The University of Minnesota cross country teams face a stiffer fight than usual at tomorrow's NCAA Division I Midwest Regional Championships in Springfield, Missouri.

The #17-ranked Gopher women, the two-time defending Midwest Region champs, will need to beat #13-ranked Illinois, the runner-ups up at Big Tens who edged the Gophers there by three points, to win a third-straight Midwest title.

They'll likely also need to stay ahead of #18 Iowa State, which topped the Gophers at the Griak Invitational earlier in the season, to be assured of an automatic qualifying spot for the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana. #30 Iowa will also compete.

Despite the tight competition, the Gophers appear to be in solid position to qualify for the 31-team NCAA Championships a week from Monday. Two teams from the region qualify automatically. The Gophers performance resume this season, should put them in position to earn an at-large bid, should they finish third or fourth.

The Gopher women have qualified for the last four NCAA championships and 10 of the last 13.

Find the official Gopher women's preview HERE.

The Gopher men, runners-up in the Midwest last year and champions in 2007, face an uphill battle to qualify for their 12th NCAA Championship in the last 14 years.

Minnesota, ranked #29 nationally, faces #2 Oklahoma State, #18 Oklahoma, #27 Iowa State at the meet. Tulsa, which was ranked earlier in the season, could also contend for a qualifying spot.

Because the Gophers have lost to the Sooners and Cyclones earlier in the season, a finish lower than third at the meet would make qualifying at large very difficult. The first 10,000 meter race of the season has a lot riding on it for the young Gophers, who plan to run three freshman/red-shirt freshman on Saturday.

The Gophers will be led by defending Midwest Regional individual champion Hassan Mead, however. The Minneapolis South alum is one of three Gophers -- Andrew Carlson and Antonio Vega are the others -- to win the Midwest. He'll try to be the first Gopher to win back-to-back titles at the race.

Find the official Gopher's men's preview HERE.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pick 10: Divison I and III Regional Meets

NCAA Division I and Division III cross country athletes and teams will attempt to qualify for their respective national meets in contests all around the country this weekend. The local squads are all heading south to compete in their Regional Meets on Saturday. The Gophers will travel to Missouri State to face off with teams such as the #2 ranked Oklahoma State men and individuals like 2009 5000 Meter NCAA champion Angela Bizzarri. The MIAC teams will congregate at Grinnell, Iowa on Saturday morning to determine who moves on to the National Meet at Baldwin-Wallace.

Just as area cross country teams are getting one last chance to cap a great year or salvage a not-so-great one, fantasy contestants on DtB will be doing the same. The week will mark the end of the year for the Pick 10 contest and next week will conclude the Yes/No season.

A refresher on Pick Ten rules: You're asked to predict the finish place for each of 10 Minnesota athletes/teams in their respective regional races. You will score points for each athlete/team that scores at or above the finish place you predict for them. The rules change slightly for cross country as we will not use track and field scoring (10-8-6-5…) but will simply go 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 for each place.

Remember though, if the athlete/team finishes below your predicted place, you receive zero points.

To play Pick Ten, cut and paste the list of names below into an e-mail and add your place predictions -- 1st, 2nd, 3rd ... or 10th. Send your predictions to DtBFantasy [AT] gmail [DOT] com by 10:00 A.M. CDT on Saturday, November 14. Make sure your full name is in the e-mail. We'll announce the winner of this Pick Ten contest next week and crown a grand champion.

The current overall top-5 in Pick Ten is:

Doug Cowles – 286
Nate Porath - 258
Mick Hondo - 255
Ryan Aylesworth - 251
Charlie Mahler – 249

The full leaderboard is HERE.

Pick Ten ... Division I/Division III Regional Meets:

Megan Duwell (Gophers):
Hassan Mead (Gophers):
University of Minnesota Men:
University of Minnesota Women:
Elliott Heath (Stanford):
Carleton Women:
Hamline Men:
Margot Branigan (Hamline)
Dan Greeno (Bethel):
Ben Sathre (St. Thomas):

To Help You Make Your Picks ... Here is some information on the athletes/teams we've included in the competition:

Hassan Mead and Megan Duwell were all All-Americans in Cross Country in 2008. Mead won the Midwest Regional and finished 31st at Nationals in 2008. He is also the 2-time defending Big Ten Champ. Duwell was fourth at Regions and 32nd at Nationals last year. She is coming off a third place finish at Big Tens.

Elliott Heath is another former All-American with Minnesota ties. The Winona native finished third in the stacked PAC-10 Conference meet recently and will compete for Stanford in the West Regional on Saturday. Heath was 21st at Regions and 112th at Nationals in 2008.

The Gopher teams are also attempting to return to Nationals where they placed 15th (men) and 11th (women). On the men's side, #2 ranked Oklahoma State is the big favorite and the #29 ranked Gophers will be challenged by #18 Oklahoma and #27 Iowa State. The Gophers finished 2nd in the region last year. Oklahoma State features Minnesota natives John Stublaski and Ryan Little among it's top eight runners.

The #17 Gopher women are back to defend their Midwest Regional crown. They will be tested by #13 Illinois, #18 Iowa State and #30 Iowa.

Find 2008 Midwest Regional results here: Men Individual * Men Team * Women Individual * Women Team

The Carleton women and Hamline men emerged victorious at the MIAC meet recently and will match up again with their Minnesota foes as well as some tough teams from south of the border. Nationally ranked teams in the region include #14 Nebraska Wesleyan, #16 Carleton, #21 Wartburg, #24 Bethel, #26 St. Thomas and #32 Luther for the women. On the men's side, Nebraska Wesleyan is ranked #18, Hamline #26 and Grinnell #30.

Carleton women finished 5th in the Region in 2008 and went on to a 23rd place finish at Nationals. Hamline men have reloaded quickly from their 2008 squad that finished 9th at Regionals and did not qualify for nationals. Hamline graduated all-American Brandon Gleason but Paul Schmaedeke's squad really stepped up in 2009 led by 2nd place MIAC finisher Ian Bauer.

Click the links for 2008 Central Regional results for men and women.

Dan Greeno dominated MIAC two weeks ago and was 2nd in the Region and 33rd at Nationals in 2008, earning All-American status. Ben Sathre finished 3rd at MIAC and was the top Freshman in 2008 at the Regional Meet. He finished 23rd and was the lone Freshman in the top 40. Margot Branigan finished 3rd at the MIAC meet in 2009 and was 10th at the 2008 Regional Meet. Branigan qualified for Nationals and went on to finish 53rd.

Good luck!

Last week’s Yes/No question was: Will Morgan Place win the DII Central Regional Cross Country meet on Saturday? The correct answer was “yes” as Place ran away from the field, winning by 19 seconds. Five contestants answered correctly. The final Yes/No contest of the year will be next week and will likely feature two questions.

Thanks for playing Pick 10 on DtB!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Q & A: DtB Talks to Eden Prairie's Jeff Lindlief

On the heels of Eden Prairie's sweep of the boys' team and individual titles at the MSHSL State Cross Country Meet on Saturday (plus a third-place trophy in girls' Class AA), we tracked down Eagles' head coach Jeff Lindlief to get his thoughts on the big weekend.

Eden Prairie's boy's team title was the program's first, despite a eight-year steak of making the State meet -- out of the meat-grinder that is Section 6AA, no less!

Here's what Lindlief had to say about the meet and his teams ...

Down the Backstretch
: How did the boys' team race unfold for your squad? Did the races set up the way you hoped it would for your team?

Jeff Lindlief: The boys came in with a solid race plan and really executed it well. We didn't want to be "out-of-control" fast at the start, but yet, didn't want to be too far back at the 800. From there, they did a great job of consistently moving up in the pack throughout the race.

DtB: We heard that your #4 man had a big finish. Did you see that as it happened?

Lindlief: Yes, Erick Meszaros-Jones had the best 2nd half of any race in his career. He ran with great confidence and probably passed about 10 people in the last kilometer.

DtB: At the finish line, were you confident your team had won the race?

Lindlief: Absolutely not--in fact, I was pretty sure that Wayzata had beaten us. They are a very well-coached and successful team. We knew that the final score might be within ten points or less.

DtB: Eden Prairie has a tremendous tradition of making it out of Section 6AA and doing well at State. Still, what were the emotions like to finally win a boys' State title?

Lindlief: It was not only neat for the current EP team, but it was most rewarding to see many of our EPHS alumni and former coach, Larry Anderson at the meet. We've had plenty of 2nd and 3rd place finishes through the years, so it was fun to finally win one.

DtB: Tell us something about Aaron Bartnik. Would you have tabbed him as a potential State titlist at this time last year?

Lindlief: Aaron is an extremely talented and hard-working kid...but even as well as he ran in track last spring, I wouldn't have pegged him as a potential State CC Champion.

After seeing some of his early season workouts and races, it became apparent that if he stayed healthy, he would be right in the mix of things at State. The best thing about Aaron, however, is that even after winning a State individual title, he seemed to be even happier about his team winning the State team championship.

DtB: Finally, you had the #1-ranked girls' team going into State. The team finished 3rd in a close three-way finish. What was the determining factor in that race, from your point of view?

Lindlief: As you know, rankings are always so misleading. We knew that there were 5-6 teams that were very close in the State coming into St. Olaf. Other than seeing Lakeville South (in the Lake Conference Meet in October), we hadn't raced any of those teams since September... so we weren't too caught up in the #1 ranking!

We certainly didn't have an awful race, but it also probably wasn't our best performance all year. Only 3 of our 7 girls had ever competed in a Section or State Meet before this year, so hopefully this year's experience will help us next fall!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

HS Harriers Looking Beyond Minnesota

Regular readers of Down the Backstretch know that, in the fall anyway, Tuesdays are the days we post the Minnesota high school cross country rankings. After Saturday's sun-spangled State Meet however, we need to find something else to report.

Or do we ...

For many prep harriers, the season still has a few weeks to run as they look ahead to Nike Cross Nationals or Footlocker competition. We thought -- it being Tuesday and all -- we'd bring you up-to-date on those events ... and even share the most recent NXN Heartland Region and Harrier Magazine national rankings.

NXN Heartland ... The Nike Cross Nationals Heartland Regional meet is scheduled for Saturday at Yankton Trails Park in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Teams and individuals can still register for the meet until 8:00 p.m. CST tonight. Details on the event can be found HERE.

The top two teams in the boys' and girls' championship races will automatically qualify for Nike Cross Nationals, to be contested in Portland, Oregon on December 5,

Last year, the Wayzata boys and the Eden Prairie girls' teams won the Heartland Regional and qualified for Nike Cross Nationals -- Wayzata finishing 18th, Eden Prairie placing 11th. The 2008 Heartland individual boys' champ, of course, was Grand Rapids exchange-student Jacub Zivec, who was the runner-up a NXN.

2008 Heartland Region results are HERE. 2008 NXN results are HERE.

Regional and National Polls ... This year, the Eden Prairie boys, the newly minted MSHSL Class AA champions are ranked #1 in the Heartland. The Class AA runners-up Wayzata, are ranked #2 in the most recent Heartland poll, HERE, dated October 16.

On the girls' side, Eden Prairie, the thrid place team in Class AA, is ranked #3 in the Heartland. Class AA champs Elk River is ranked #8.

The Wayzata boys are ranked #18 and Eden Prairie boys #21 in Harrier Magazine's November 2 national poll, HERE. No Minnesota girls' team are in the national top-25.

Footlocker Cross Country ... The Footlocker Midwest Regional is set for November 28 in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Zivec was the Footlocker Midwest Region champ in 2008, and finished 5th at Footlocker Nationals.

Footlocker Nationals will be contested December 12 in San Diego, California.

Find Footlocker information HERE.

2008 Midwest Regionals results are HERE. 2008 Footlocker National results are HERE.

Monday, November 09, 2009

State Meet Photo Gallery -- By Gene Niemi

Class AA Early-Going: defending champ Lukas Gemar (251) leads eventual winner Aaron Bartnik (191) and the rest of the field.

Eden Prairie junior Bartnik wins boys' Class AA.

Class A Girls: 2009 runner-up Emma Bates (372) leads 2007 Class AA champ Laura Hughes (far left.)

Class AA girls' titlist Marie Hauger of Shakopee.

Class A boys' champ Mubarik Musa of Worthington.

Class A girls' champ Maddie McClellan of Perham.

Photos by Gene Niemi.