Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wayzata Ranked #15 in Computer Ratings

The Wayzata boys cross country team is tabbed as the country's 15th-best team in computer rankings released today by XCNation. The Nike Cross Nationals Heartland Region champions and MSHSL Class AA titlists lead the three Minnesota schools listed in the rankings.

Eden Prairie, the Heartland and Class AA girls' champion, is ranked #19 in its ratings. The Edina boys team, runner-up at Heartland, is ranked #24.

All three teams will compete in this weekend's Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon.

Find complete rankings HERE. Find additional national high school polls and rankings HERE.

Joining the Minnesota teams in the race are individuals Adam Zutz of St. Francis, the Class AA boys individual champ, Maria Hauger of Shakopee, the Class AA girls' champ, and Jamie Piepenburg of Alexandria, the Class AA girls' runner-up.

Find additional NXN details HERE.

Pumpkin Pie Smashing in Holiday Poll

Pumpkin Pie out-polled defending champion Mashed Potatoes and two-time victor Stuffing in the 4th Annual Down the Backstretch Thanksgiving poll conducted over the holiday weekend.

Pumpkin Pie garnered 33% of the votes to out-pace Stuffing, the 2007 and 2008 champion, which gathered 22% of voters. Turkey, the Thanksgiving centerpiece which has never won the holiday poll, finished 3rd with 18% of the vote.

Mashed Potatoes were a disappointing 4th with 13% of the votes only one year after its victory in the contest. Cranberries, 8%, and Gravy, 4%, finished well back of the leaders.

Pumpkin Pie coach Billy Corgan, when informed of the desert's victory, said, "Today is the greatest day I've ever known. Can't live for tomorrow, tomorrow's much too long."

Find complete results of the Thanksgiving Poll on the right sidebar below the advertisements.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lusignan Leads State's Footlocker Effort

Shakopee High School senior Trent Lusignan was the top Minnesota finisher in Footlocker Midwest Regional competition in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Saturday.

Lusignan, the 4th-placer in the MSHSL Class AA State Meet this season, finished 14th in 15:24.1 in the seeded boys' race over the 5K UW-Parkside course. Totino Grace senior Adam Braun finished 17th in 15:24.6.

Defending Footlocker Midwest Regional and Finals champion Lukas Verzbicas won the race in 14:44.2.

Two-time MSHSL Class AA girls' champion Maria Hauger, a sophomore from Shakopee, was the top Minnesota girls' finisher at Footlocker Midwest, finishing 30th in 18:37.3.

Allison Woodward of DePere, Wisconsin won the race in 17:18.6.

This year marked the second year in a row that no Minnesotans qualified for the Footlocker Finals to be held in San Diego, California next month.

The top ten finisher in the seeded boys' and girls' races advance to the Footlocker Finals.

Find full Footlocker Midwest results HERE (boys) and HERE (girls).

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving from Down the Backstretch!

Gobble, gobble Minnesota running and track fans!

It’s once again time for the storied athletic tradition that is the Down the Backstretch Thanksgiving poll – our annual contest to determine DtB readers’ preferred holiday food.

We each have our favorite portion on the plate, and over the years Stuffing (2007, 2008) and Mashed Potatoes (2009) have won the coveted Thanksgiving Championship, while Turkey and Pumpkin Pie have historically made strong showings.

(Cranberries and gravy, on the other hand … )

There’s no clear favorite this year ... some sage observers are picking stuffing, other think Turkey will be a real animal, there are even a handful that think Gravy might pour it on this year. In the end, of course, it will be you, the DtB readers, who will decide!

So, while DtB takes a little holiday down time, please take a moment from your own holiday festivities to vote in our poll, found on the right sidebar just below the ads. Voting in the poll is open until the end of the day Sunday, November 28.

We’ll be back on Monday with the results, and, of course, the latest on the sport from Minnesota.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wilson: "... one of the ugliest national races ..."

University of Minnesota women's coach Gary Wilson called yesterday's warm, wind-swept NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana "one of the ugliest national races I've ever seen."

His comments came on the heels of his team's 27th-place finish in the meet and the late-race DNF of the team's #2-runner Missa Varpness.

“I’m very proud of this team,” Wilson said in a U of M media release. “That was one of the ugliest national races I’ve ever seen. No team was ever really able to find a rhythm."

As footage in THIS Flotrack video highlight reel shows, many runners succumbed to the distance, conditions, and magnitude of the meet. Varpness, a redshirt freshman from Montivideo, fell roughly 200 meters from the finish line and did not finish.

"Maybe it was the wind or maybe that it was warmer than normal," Wilson speculated. "Obviously it unfortunate that we lost Missa and that probably cost us five or six spots in the team standings. Still, these young women accomplished so much this season. It was a great year.”

The Gopher men also placed 27th in the meet.

The Gopher programs added two new All-Americans to their rolls: Stephanie Price earned the distinction with her 31st-place finish as did Ben Blankenship with his 39th-place result.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Stublaski Keys Oklahoma State Title Defense;
Gopher Women, Men 27th at NCAAs

Johnathan Stublaski, a Henry Sibley High School alum, headlined the Minnesota news from today's NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Indiana today.

Stublaski (pictured), who had to lobby his way onto the Oklahoma State varsity for the meet, sealed the Cowboys' second-straight NCAA crown with a 36th-place, All-American finish in the meet as his team's #5 runner.

Oklahoma State, ranked #2 entering the meet, tallied 73 points to Florida State (193), Wisconsin (223), and #1-ranked Stanford 237.

Hear DtB's exclusive interview with Stublaski here ...

Hear Oklahoma State coach Dave Smith talk about Stublaski and his team here ...

The University of Minnesota cross country teams each finished 27th at today's NCAA Cross Country championships in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Ben Blankenship paced the Gopher men with an All-American 39th-place finish in 30:29.

Winona High School graduate Elliott Heath finished 42nd for Stanford.

Stephanie Price paced the Gopher women with an All-American 31st-place finish in 20:46. The Gopher effort was hobbled by the DNF of Missa Varpness, the regular #2-runner for the team.

Villanova defended its women's title, led by individual champ Sheila Reid. Samuel Chelanga of Liberty University defended his NCAA men's title.

Find complete results HERE.

Photo by Randy Miyazaka/TrackandFieldPhoto.net

Welcome to NCAA Cross Country Monday!

It's one of the compelling little oddities of our sport that the Monday before Thanksgiving is the traditional race-day for the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championships.

DtB in on the scene to bring you all the action on a warm (62 degrees), cloudy, and possibly day in Terre Haute, Indiana. We'll have full stories about the meet up as soon as possible post-race.

In the meantime, though, keep an eye on our Twitter feed (HERE or on the left sidebar) for flash news from the course.

You can watch the races live, HERE, beginning at 11:00 CDT.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

St. Thomas' Ben Sathre is D3 Runner-Up

University of St. Thomas junior Ben Sathre finished second at this morning's NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships in Waverly, Iowa.

Sathre (pictured above, #197) ran the 8K course in 24:23.8, less than two seconds behind champion Anders Hulleberg of Haverford who clocked 24:22.2.

Hulleberg's Haverford team won the meet with 87 points.

Hamline University's Devin Monson, the MIAC champion, earned all-American honors as well with his 23rd-place finish in 24:47.5. Monson's Hamline squad finished 22nd in the team competition with 532 points.

The top 35 runners in both D3 races earn all-American honors.

Complete men's results can be found HERE.

Hear our exclusive interview with the Sathre here ...

Listen to St. Thomas men's coach Pete Wareham talk about Sathre's race and his own D3 runner-up finish back in 1983 ...

St. Olaf sophomore Emma Lee finished 10th in women's competition, leading her team to a 23rd-place finish. Lee (pictured) clocked 21:28.1 for the 6K Wartburg College course.

Middlebury won the meet with 185 points.

Minnesota-Morris' Linda Keller, the two-time MSHSL Class A cross country champ from Paynesville, finished 19th in 21:35.1. Alyssa Sybilrud, a Burnsville alumnus who competes for the University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire, finished 23rd in 21:39.1.

Complete women's results can be found HERE.

Photos by Charlie Mahler.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Follow the NCAA Cross Country Action Here!

It's Friday night, and your editor is packing up his rental car tonight to head out early tomorrow morning for Waverly, Iowa, site of the NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships on Saturday, and then motor on to Terre Haute, Indiana for the NCAA Division I meet on Monday.

Between my Twitter feed, HERE, our Facebook page, HERE, and good ol' Down the Backstretch itself, we'll have all the Minnesota cross country news for you as soon as it is made. ( ... and, perhaps a few self-indulgent tweets about the progress of my road-trip, which will culminate in Ohio with a Turkey Trot 5K and the holiday with my in-laws.)

In the meantime, check out the Gopher sports info staff's previews of the NCAA meet HERE (men) and HERE (women).

If you really want to geek-out on the NCAA Championships, check out Track & Field News' new NCAA Division I Cross Country Archives, HERE. It includes results of every NCAA meet, plus tons of interesting photos and information!

There's a similar D3 archives, HERE.

Until Saturday morning ...

McGregor, Monson are Athletes of the Month

The Minnesota Association of USA Track & Field announced recently that Katie McGregor and Devin Monson are USATF Minnesota's Athletes of the Month for November.

McGregor, a member of Team USA Minnesota, is recognized for winning the USA 10 Mile Championship last month at the Medtronic TC 10 Mile. McGregor’s win sealed the USA Running Circuit title for the St. Louis Park resident. The USA Running Circuit is a grand prix of the year’s USA Championship road races, of which McGregor won three.

Monson, a junior at Hamline University, is recognized for winning the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference men’s cross country title last month. Monson ran the 8-kilometer circuit at the Como Golf Course in St. Paul in 25 minutes, 38 seconds, leading Hamline to the team title.

USA Track & Field Minnesota selects Athletes of the Month to honor excellence in track and field and its related sports in Minnesota. USA Track & Field is the governing body of the sport in the United States and the Minnesota Association of USATF sanctions and sponsors track and field, cross country, road racing, and racewalking events for athletes of all ages in the state.

Find a complete listing of USATF-Minnesota Athletes of the Month HERE.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Yes/No: The 2010 Grand Finale!

This is the most important week of the year in college cross country. NCAA Division I and III will end their seasons with National Meets while Division II holds their Regional Meets with Nationals following the week after. It is also the final week in the Yes/No contest. It would be difficult to choose a single Yes/No question, so we are going with three -- one for each Division!

The University of Minnesota qualified its men's and women's teams to Nationals this year. The Gophers will compete at Indiana State on Monday. On the Division II side, area squads will be heading back to Nebraska for the Regional Meet on Saturday. Wayne State is hosting with the first race slated for 11:00 A.M. Finally, the Division III schools in Minnesota raced the Regional Meet last weekend at Wartburg and a handful of teams and individuals will return to Waverly, Iowa for the National Meet.

With all this cross country action we have an abundance of possible Yes/No questions. Here are the three we came up with...

Y/N: Will the Gopher cross country teams (men and/or women) finish in the top twenty in the overall team standings?

Y/N: Will the UMD women finish among the top four teams at the Central Regional Meet and auto-qualify for the National Meet?

Y/N: Will more than six combined men and women from the MIAC finish in the top thirty-five and be named All Americans at the Division III National Meet on Saturday?

Both Gopher squads finished third at the Regional Meet and received at-large bids to the National Meet. The Gopher women finished tenth at the meet last year and are currently ranked twenty-second. The men finished twenty-fourth in 2009 and are now ranked twenty-third in the nation.

The UMD women's cross country team were upset in a closely fought NSIC battle by both Augustana and the University of Mary. This week, they will likely fight it out with those two teams for the remaining automatic qualifying slots behind perennial powers Western State and Adams State. UMD is currently ranked fifth in the Central Region.

The MIAC athletes routinely prove that it is one of the toughest conferences in the nation at the Division III National Meet. Last year, the MIAC finished with eight individual All-Americans and there are a number of top runners coming back this year.

Returning MIAC All-Americans include Simone Childs-Walker (eleventh in 2009) and Ben Sathre (twenty-sixth last year). Dustin Franta just missed the threshold by finishing thirty-seventh. Other top runners include the top two women at MIAC - Maren Westby and Emma Lee, both from St. Olaf, and two runners from St. Thomas - Taylor Berg and Allie Metzler. On the men's side, MIAC champ Devin Monson should certainly finish much higher than his 102nd place finish last year and Griak champ Tom Sederquist will compete as well.

To play our game, simply type "yes" or "no" into the subject line of an e-mail and send it to us at DtBFantasy [AT] gmail [DOT] com before 11:00 A.M. CST, Saturday, November 20th. Please put your answers in the subject line of the e-mail and make sure your full name appears somewhere in the e-mail. We will continue to offer a bonus for participants making their debut in Yes/No - a correct answer will be worth two points for any first-time players.

My answers: D1 - Yes, D2 - Yes, D3 - No

The fantasy contest question from last week was: Will more than two University of Minnesota Gopher individuals (men and/or women) finish in the top ten of their respective races at the Midwest Regional Meet at Bradley University on Saturday? The answer was no. Stephanie Price won the Regional race and Ben Blankenship finished seventh. Mike Torchia was the next highest Gopher finisher in twelfth place.

The Yes/No contest is entering the final weekend and it looks to be a two-horse-race. Lori Anne Peterson enters the final contest with a one-point lead over Gregg Robertson, twenty-eight to twenty-seven. The last contest will offer three questions and so Toby Hatlevig, with twenty-five points, still has a mathematical shot at tying for first place.

For all the results, please visit DtB Fantasy Corner.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

NXN: Wayzata's Miles Describes the Meet

Last Sunday, three Minnesota high school teams qualified for Nike Cross Nationals thanks to their stellar performances at the NXN Heartland Regional in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Competing as "club teams" -- and without the help of their in-season coaches who can't have contact with them -- the state's top squads earned the right to compete at the NXN final in Portland, Oregon on December 4.

In boys competition, MSHSL Class AA champions Wayzata won the regional with 113 points, while Edina, 5th in Class AA, finished runner-up with 124 points. In girls' competition, Class AA champ Eden Prairie won the region with a scant 57 points.
(We understand the EP girls were coached at the meet by TC Running Company owner Adam Lindahl, who is a generous sponsor of Down the Backstretch.)

To get a sense of what NXN competition is all about, we talked to Wayzata coach Bill Miles about the meet and how it differs from the State Meet and regular season racing.

Bill Miles:
The biggest difference for me is the change in my role. I have not coached them for a week or two (depending on the schedule for that year), so I am there as a spectator. Having said that, I think that I know the kids pretty well and have watched them train and race for four to six years, so I feel comfortable answering your questions.

How did the race play out for your guys?

The race course was tighter than is ideal for us, so it looked like it was more of a struggle to move through the field than at St. Olaf. Our kids seemed to keep their focus and composure and kept moving up throughout the entire race. Looking at the splits that are posted at the meet website, it looks like we didn't take the lead until the last mile.

How is an NXN regional different than a State Meet?

Miles: As a spectator it is significantly different, because you don't know the uniforms. It's even hard to pick out the kids you're cheering on. I'm so used to looking for blue and gold uniforms at meets and then on Sunday I'm looking for all black uniforms. It's confusing for an old man.

Another obvious difference is the mystery. When you're bringing together teams from seven states, you really don't know how you'll stack up. You haven't raced each other as much or have as many common opponents as with your in-state rivals. When you go to the State Meet, you're more familiar with most of your opponents.

Other than that, they are both 5K cross country races in November against really good competition. Our kids love to race and competing for a State Title for yourself, your teammates and your school is incredibly exciting just as competing for a chance for your team to compete together in a national meet is thrilling.

Do you ever worry about a let-down for guys at NXN Regionals, especially after winning a state title?

Miles: Not really. The environment at Sioux Falls is electric. Our kids are fit and not over raced. They've been thinking about the State Meet and the Nike Regional Meets since June. Kraig Lungstrom, our Wayzata XC Club Coach, does a great job with the kids and has them ready to go. Why worry?

Armstrong Set to Return to Chiba Ekiden

Team USA Minnesota's Meghan Armstrong has again been named to the USA squad competing at the International Chiba Ekiden in Chiba, Japan. This year's race is set for November 23.

The six-member squad of three men and three women will run a marathon-distance relay against teams from nine nations, including Kenya, Romania, Russia, China, Australia, Canada, Norway, Italy, and hosts Japan,

The race features coed teams running six alternating legs that cover distances of 5K and 10K and a last leg of 7.195K. In 2009, Armstrong ran a 5k leg in 16:18 with the USA team finishing in fifth place.

Armstrong (pictured) was selected for the Chiba Ekiden squad based on her performances this year, which have included a fourth place finish at the USA 5K Championships, and a fourth place finish at the USA Women's 10 Mile Championship.

Other Team USA Minnesota News ... Matt Gabrielson finished sixth at the Big Sur Half Marathon last Sunday in Monterey Bay. The Drake University alumnus ran 1:05:47. Macdonald Ondara of Kenya won in 1:03:20.

Photo by Gene Niemi.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NCAA-Bound St. Olaf, Hamline #22 and #29

The St. Olaf College women's cross country team will toe the starting line at Saturday's NCAA Division III National Cross Country Championships as the #22-ranked women's team in D3, according the final NCAA rankings released on Monday.

The Hamline University men will race at the Waverly, Iowa meet as the #29-ranked men's team in D3. The two squads are the only Minnesota teams competing at the meet.

Vermont's Middlebury College is the top-ranked women's team in Division III; North Central College of Illinois is the #1-ranked men's squad.

Carleton College's women's team, the only other Minnesota team in the D3 top-35, was ranked #33 in the final rankings, but did not qualify for the 32-team meet national meet.

Find the full rankings HERE.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gopher Teams Earn At-Large NCAA Bids;
Hamline, St. Olaf Advance in Division III

The University of Minnesota men's and women's cross country teams earned at-large bids the NCAA Division I Championships to be held a week from today in Terre Haute, Indiana.

The men's team will make its 12th trip to the NCAA Championships in the last 13 years. For the women, it's the squad's sixth-straight trip to "the big dance."

Both Gopher teams finished in third place at the NCAA Division I Midwest Regional in Peoria, Illinois on Saturday, missing out on the two automatic bids available for the meet there. When at-large selections were made on Sunday, however, travel arrangements to the Queen City of the Wabash were back on.

For the men, the NCAA bid was a reward for a resilient team that weathered the early-season loss of three-time All-American Hassan Mead to a collapsed lung. Ben Blankenship led the team at regionals on Saturday, finishing 7th overall.

There's a recap of the men's race, HERE, on Gophersports.com.

“I’m so happy for our guys,” head coach Steve Plasencia said. “They really gave it their all in the last couple of meets and I’m excited that it was enough to reward them with an NCAA bid.”

The Gopher men were the only men's at-large team taken from the Midwest Regional.

Women's coach Gary Wilson had high praise for his squad as well after hearing the good news about nationals.

“What can I say about this team,” Wilson asked. “These young women have worked very hard for this and I’m so excited that they reached their goal of getting to NCAAs. We have such a young team but they have just been getting better and better.”

There's a recap of the women's race HERE.

The Gopher women were one of three at-large teams from the Midwest Regional to make nationals, joining Kansas State and Tulsa.

Junior Stephanie Price was the Midwest Regional champion, winning the 6K race in 20:02

Midwest Regional results can be found HERE (men) and HERE (women).

The complete NCAA Division I Championship field can be found HERE.

Hamline, St. Olaf Advance in D3 ...

The champions of the MIAC will represent the state's D3 teams at the NCAA Division III Championships in Waverly, Iowa on Saturday. The Hamline men and the St. Olaf women earned at-large bids to the meet yesterday.

Hamline finished 3rd at the NCAA Division III Central Regional - held on the national meet course -- behind champion Grinnell and runner-up Luther. St. Olaf was fourth among women's teams, trailing champs Luther, hosts Wartburg, and Nebraska Wesleyan.

Individually, regional champion Ben Sathre of St. Thomas, Dustin Franta of St. John’s, and Tom Sederquist of Concordia-Moorhead will compete in the men's race at NCAAs.

UMAC champion Linda Keller of Minnesota-Morris, Simone Childs-Walker of Carleton, Taylor Berg and Allie Metzler of St. Thomas, Jessica Kociscak of Hamline, and Alison Smyth of Carleton will compete as individuals in the women's race.

Central Regional results can be found HERE (men) and HERE (women).

The complete NCAA Division III Championship field can be found HERE.

Follow the Action ... Down the Backstretch
will be on the scene at the NCAA Division I and Division III Championships this weekend. Follow the web-site as well as our Facebook page and your editor's Twitter feed for all the latest news.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Short-Cut: Results' Links for November 13-14

It's Regionals weekend for NCAA Division I and Division III (today) and Nike Cross Nationals Heartland (tomorrow)!

Find all the results below ...

NCAA Division I Midwest Regional: Results
Update: Both Gopher teams 3rd ... Price wins individual crown.
Other NCAA D1 Regionals: Results Link
Update: Elliott Heath 8th for #2-ranked Stanford.

NCAA Division III Central Regional: Results
Update: Hamline men 3rd, St. Olaf women 4th, Sathre wins men's title.
Other NCAA D3 Regionals: Results Link

All NXN Regionals: Results
Update: Wayzata, Edina boys 1-2 at Heartland, Zutz runner-up.
Update: Eden Prairie wins, Piepenburg 3rd in girls' race.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Yes/No: More Than Two Gophers in Top-10?

This weekend marks the penultimate cross country meet on the University of Minnesota squads' schedule. Running in the Midwest Regional race at Bradley University on Saturday, they look to send both squads or as many individuals as possible to the following week's National Meet.

It just so happens that it is also the penultimate Yes/No contest of the year. We will celebrate the end of the year next week with three questions and wrap up with a new grand champion.

Hassan Mead won the Midwest Regional in 2009 while Megan Duwell finished second and Amy Laskowske ninth on the women's side. These three athletes will not compete for the current edition of the Gophers. Who will take their place in the lead pack in 2010?

Y/N: Will more than two University of Minnesota Gopher individuals (men and/or women) finish in the top ten of their respective races at the Midwest Regional Meet at Bradley University on Saturday?

Stephanie Price will be ranked as one of the favorites to win the Midwest Regional. Price is coming off a runner-up performance at the Big Ten Championship and has run with the leaders in every race she has run. Price was nineteenth in the 2009 Midwest Regional.

Ben Blankenship also had a great finish at the Big Ten Championships. Blankenship was third in that meet, less than a second behind the winner. Blankenship finished in twenty-eighth place last year at Regions.

Other top runners for the Gophers include Mike Torchia (fourteenth at Big Tens), Pieter Gagnon (seventeenth at Big Tens, thirty-eighth at 2009 Regions), Nikki Swenson (thirteenth at Big Tens, twenty-first at 2009 Regions) and Missa Varpness (eleventh at Big Tens).

To play our game, simply type "yes" or "no" into the subject line of an e-mail and send it to us at DtBFantasy [AT] gmail [DOT] com before 11:00 A.M. CST, Saturday, November 13th. Please put your answers in the subject line of the e-mail and make sure your full name appears somewhere in the e-mail. We will continue to offer a bonus for participants making their debut in Yes/No - a correct answer will be worth two points for any first-time players.

My answer: No

The fantasy contest last week included two Yes/No questions:
Will Morgan Place win individually AND will the University of Minnesota-Duluth Women win the team race at the NSIC Championships? Also, will Katie McGregor run a personal best in the marathon (i.e., faster than 2:31:14)? The answer to the first question was no. Place was second and UMD finished third at the NSIC Championship. The correct answer to second question was yes. Katie McGregor finished as the second American and eleventh woman overall. She ran a personal best 2:31:01.

A grand total of zero contestants answered both questions correctly. Nineteen players answered one Yes/No question right. Going into the final two weeks of Yes/No, the top three players are Lori Anne Peterson with 27 points, Gregg Robertson with 26 and Toby Hatlevig at 25 points.

For all the results, please visit DtB Fantasy Corner.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Once Unbeaten UMD Women Fall in D2 Poll

The University of Minnesota - Duluth women's cross country team, which has set the national rankings' pace among Minnesota program across all divisions, fell out of the NCAA Division II top-10 in the latest rankings after an upset loss at the NSIC meet last Saturday in Wayne, Nebraska.

The Bulldogs, ranked #7 in the country going into conference, fell to #13 after a third place finish behind Augustana and the University of Mary. The defeat was the team's first of the season.

UMD is the lone Minnesota women's or men's program with a national ranking in D2. Find complete D2 rankings HERE.

UMD will return to Wayne to compete in the NCAA Division II Central Regional Championship next weekend with a berth in the NCAA Division II Championships at stake.

Gopher and D3 Regionals This Weekend ...

The University of Minnesota squads' and the state's Division III programs will be in action this weekend at their respective regional meets.

The Gopher teams -- the #20-ranked Gopher women and the #24 Gopher men -- will compete at Saturday's NCAA Division I Midwest Regional in Peoria, Illinois. Two men's and women's teams will automatically qualify from the meet for the NCAA Division I Championships.

An additional 13 at-large teams will be selected from non-automatic qualifying teams from the nation's eight regions. In all, 31 teams will compete in the D1 national meet.

The Gopher women are ranked #2 (behind Iowa State) in the Midwest; the Gopher men are ranked #4 in the region, behind national #1 Oklahoma State, #8 Oklahoma, and #27 Tulsa.

Read regional meet previews for the U of M squads HERE (women) and HERE (men).

MIAC Champs Eye Automatic Bids ...

MIAC cross country champions St. Olaf and Hamline are tabbed to earn automatic qualifying spots at Saturday's NCAA Division III Central Regional in Waverly, Iowa, if regional rankings are to be trusted.

The St. Olaf women, ranked #15 in D3, enter the meet as the region's #2 squad, behind Luther College. The University of St. Thomas is ranked #5 in the Central, followed in order by Carleton, Gustavus Adolphus, Bethel, and St. Benedict.

Two team's automatically qualify for the NCAA Division III National Championships also held in Waverly. Up to three more region teams could race at nationals via at-large selection.

In men's competition, MIAC men's champs Hamline, ranked #22 nationally in D3, paces the Central Region rankings, followed by #3 St. Olaf, #6 St. John's, and #10 St. Thomas.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

McGregor Targets Marathon Trials in 2012

At this time next year, Team USA Minnesota's Katie McGregor, the 2010 USA Running Circuit champion and the 11th-place finisher at Sunday's ING New York City Marathon, will be setting her sights on the USA Olympic Marathon Trials.

The Ohio native, who notched a PR 2:31:01 at NYC, plans to race the Marathon Trials, set for January 2012 in Houston, Texas, as well as the USA Track and Field Trials set for Eugene, Oregon in the summer.

McGregor (pictured) talked about her plans in THIS Team USA Minnesota media release.

McGregor, who has raced the marathon distance three times, has never run the Marathon Trials in her career. She has twice finished fourth at the Track and Field Trials in the 10,000-meters.

McGregor was pleased with her race in New York, where she was part of a large women's lead pack until mile 21.

"It was great to have a big group to run with since there was some wind," she said. "I felt like I ran a smart race overall. I didn't accomplish the main goals I set for myself, but I am still satisfied with the way I ran my race. I know that I am capable of running faster in the future."

McGregor had hoped to break 2:30 and finish in the top-10 in the race.

The New York City Marathon capped a strong year on the roads for the long-time Team USA Minnesota athlete. She dominated the USA Running Circuit by winning three USA titles, -- at 15K, 25K, and 10 Miles -- taking runner-up honors in the USA Marathon Championship held in conjunction with the NYC Marathon, and finishing third at the USA 10K.

McGregor tallied 79 points in the competition, outdistancing runner-up Shalane Flanagan at 45 points and Renee Metivier Baillie at 34.

"I am very excited to be the winner of the 2010 USA Running Circuit," McGregor said. "The circuit showcases a very deep and talented field of runners so this is a special accomplishment."

In 2011, McGregor said she plans a campaign mixing cross country, road racing, and track competition.

Photo by Gene Niemi.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Meet the Minnesota Hall of Fame Class of 2010

The Minnesota Track and Field Hall of Fame inducted six new members to its august group at a packed banquet on Friday night.

Inducted (pictured from left to right above) were:

Tom Heinonen, a former Robbinsdale High School and University of Minnesota star who was a Big Ten track champion at 3-miles and the long-time women's coach at the University of Oregon ...

Harry Nash, a sprint star at Wheaton High School and the University of Minnesota in the 1950s who ran 9.4 and 21.1 for 100 and 220 yards, respectively, as a collegian ...

Bill Huyck, the long-time Carleton College coach who led the school's cross country team to an NCAA Division III title in 1981 ...

Stephanie Herbst-Lucke, the former Chaska and University of Wisconsin star who won three NCAA Division I titles on the track and once held the collegiate record for 10,000-meters ...

Merrill Fischbein, the dean of Minnesota track and field and cross country officials and a long-time USATF Minnesota Officials Chairman ...

Larry Russ, the long-time University of St. Thomas coach who lead Tommie cross country teams to NCAA Division III titles in 1984 and 1986.

For a complete listing of Minnesota Track and Field Hall of Fame members, check out USATF Minnesota's Hall of Fame pages HERE.

DtB will profile each inductee separately in the coming weeks.

Photo by Charlie Mahler.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Katie McGregor Runs PR 2:31:01 at NYC

Team USA Minnesota's Katie McGregor ran a personal best 2:31:01 to finish 11th among women in yesterday's ING New York City Marathon.

McGregor (pictured) was the runner-up in the USA Women's Marathon Championship held in conjunction with the race. Shalane Flanagan, the second place finisher overall, won the USA title in 2:28:40.

Kenya's Edna Kiplagat won the women's title in 2:28:20.

McGregor's finish in the USA Championship confirmed her 2010 USA Running Circuit title -- a grand prix comprising all of the year's USA Championship road race. McGregor won USA titles at 15K, 25K, and 10 miles this year.

McGregor topped her 2008 marathon PR of 2:31:14, also set at New York, with a negatively split race through the city's five boroughs. The University of Michigan alum passed the half-way stripe in 1:15:48, after an opening 5K of 18:41 and a first 10K of 36:01.

Find complete NYC Marathon results HERE.

Photo by Victor Sailer/Photo Run.

Barbora Špotáková Czech Athlete of Year

Former U of M javelin thrower Barbora Špotáková named Czech athlete of the year for 2010. Read the IAAF story HERE.

State Meet Photo Gallery by Gene Niemi

Adam Zutz (540) catches and passes Cole O'Brien in the final strides for the Class AA boys' title.

Shakopee's Maria Hauger runs away with another Class AA girls' crown.

Class AA girls' runner-up Jamie Piepenburg of Alexandria and 3rd-placer Megan Platner of team champion Eden Prairie race to the line.

Class A boys' action -- Mason Ferlic leads Brandon Clark, 2009 champ Mubarik Musa, and eventual runner-up Matt Jergenson.

Mounds Park Academy's Ferlic brings home the victory.

An elated Marisa Shady of Esko speeds to the Class A girls' crown.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Class AA Girls': Hauger, Eden Prairie Win

Shakopee sophomore Maria Hauger defended her MSHSL Class AA cross country title with a resounding win in Northfield today.

In team competition, #1-ranked Eden Prairie topped #2 Monticello 69-79. Lakeville South finished third with 141.

Hauger led from wire to wire, winning in 14:19. Alexandria's Jamie Piepenburg moved up a place from 2009 to finish runner-up. Megan Platner of Eden Prairie was third.

Hauger is the first repeat champion in girls' Class AA since Elizabeth Yetzer won titles in 2004 and 2005.

Find complete results HERE.

Hear Hauger describe her race ...

Bill Miles Reveals the Wayzata Secret ...

... it starts with the letter "R."

Class AA Boys: Zutz and Wayzata State Champs

St. Francis senior Adam Zutz and the Trojans of Wayzata High School were crowned MSHSL Class AA cross country champs this afternoon in Northfield.

Zutz caught and outkicked Burnsville junior Cole O'Brien in the race's final 30 meters to win race in 15:34. Defending champion Aaron Bartnik of Eden Prairie was third.

#1-ranked Wayzata won its third Class AA title in four years with with a 61-point performance. Bill Miles' teams won Class AA crowns in 2007 and 2008, and were the runners-up last year.

Moorhead was second with 130 points; Rosemount was third with 134.

Find complete results HERE.

Listen to Zutz describe his race here ...

Class A Girls: Shady and Adrian are Winners

Unheralded Marisa Shady of Esko and perennial team power Adrian won the Class A girls' titles at this morning's MSHSL State Cross Country Meet in Northfield.

Shady, a sophomore, out-ran Fairmont junior Lauren Friese and #1-ranked Elena Danielson, a sophomore from St. Cloud Cathedral, who finished third. Shady clocked 14:46 over the 4000-meter St. Olaf College course.

Adrain tallied 89 points to win its fifth Class A title in the last six years. St. Cloud Cathedral was second with 118 points; Dover-Eyota/St. Charles was third with 143. Defending champion Waseca finished 7th.

Adrian, 4th in the meet last year, won Class A titles in 2006, 2006, 2007, and 2008.

Find complete girls' results HERE.

Esko's Shady Just Hoped for Top Ten Finish

While we await official girls results, hear surprise Class A girls champion Marisa Shady of Esko describe her race ...

Class A Boys: Ferlic and Perham Victorious

Mason Ferlic, a senior from Mounds Park Academy, out ran Caledonia senior Matt Jergenson, the runner-up, and defending champ Mubarik Musa of Worthington, third, to win the MSHSL Class A boys' individual cross county title in 15:48.

In team competition, #1-ranked Perham avenged last year's two-point loss to Plainview-Elgin-Millville with a 20-point 78 to 98 win over the Bulldogs this year.

St. Cloud Cathedral was third with 102.

Perham has finished first or second in seven of the last eight Class A boy's State Meets, winning titles in 2006, 2007, and today.

Find complete boys' results HERE.

Listen to Ferlic describe his race here ...

Sunny, Breezy, and Firm at the State Meet

The state's top high school runners are being greeted with ideal conditions at today's MSHSL State Cross Country Meet at Northfield's St. Olaf College. The skies are sunny, there's a not-unpleasant autumn breeze, and course conditions are dry and firm.

You can follow all the action with us on DtB. We'll post Twitter updates from the finish line after each race and post recaps here as soon as official results are available.

Action begins at 10:00 a.m. with the Class A boys' race ... the Class A girls run at 11:00 and the Class AA race go off at 1:00 p.m. and 2:00.

Friday, November 05, 2010

A November Yes/No Doubleheader!

It is championship season for the competitive running world as well as for the Yes/No contest. For our part we will up the ante a bit and offer a Yes/No doubleheader. We are checking out two big contests this weekend: the Northern Sun Conference (NSIC) Cross Country Meet at Wayne State on Saturday and the ING New York City Marathon on Sunday.

The major players from Minnesota in these events are Katie McGregor in the marathon and the UMD Bulldogs, led by Morgan Place, in the NSIC Meet.

Y/N: Will Morgan Place win individually AND will the University of Minnesota-Duluth Women win the team race at the NSIC Championships?

Y/N: Will Katie McGregor run a personal best in the marathon (i.e., faster than 2:31:14)?

The UMD Women are the highest ranked team going into the NSIC. The Bulldogs are currently ranked #7 in the nation, followed closely by the University of Mary, ranked #10. The defending NSIC women team champs is Augustana and they are ranked #18 in Division II cross country. Morgan Place is the prohibitive favorite on the individual side. She is the two-time defending NSIC champ and is undefeated on the season.

Katie McGregor is running the third marathon of her storied career. She ran 2:32:36 at New York in 2006 and 2:31:14 in 2008 at the same race. McGregor has already won three USA championships in 2010 - 15k, 25k and 10 Mile.

To play our game, simply type "yes" or "no" into the subject line of an e-mail and send it to us at DtBFantasy [AT] gmail [DOT] com before 11:00 A.M. CST, Saturday, November 6th. Please put your answers in the subject line of the e-mail and make sure your full name appears somewhere in the e-mail. We will continue to offer a bonus for participants making their debut in Yes/No - a correct answer will be worth two points for any first-time players.

My answer: Yes and Yes

The fantasy contest from last week was a Pick Ten - Big Ten and MIAC. The winner of this contest was Rich Cowles with 65 points. He has won two consecutive Pick Ten contests. This was the last Pick Ten of the season, therefore we will crown the overall winner as well. Mike Henderson and Jesse Schoen waged a year-long battle for first place, with Henderson ending up on top with 223 points. Schoen finished second with 218 and Mitch VanBruggen emerged from the pack to take third with 206.

There are also monthly Yes/No awards to announce. There were two contestants who were perfect in October; Chad Austin and Pat/Kathleen Foley both went four-for-four through that month.

For all the results, please visit DtB Fantasy Corner.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

RW/RT Interview with Katie McGregor

Another Katie McGregor interview is HERE. Though there is no mention of peanut M&Ms.

Carrie Tollefson on NYCM

The ING New York City Marathon has been utilizing the internet with a channel dedicated to wall-to-wall coverage of the event. Minnesota's Carrie Tollefson is the host for the Daily Cool Down that is "broadcast" at 9 PM CST every night. It's also available "on demand" HERE.

You get nuggets such as Katie McGregor's peanut M&M obsession. Shalane Flanagan's "bedazzling" her race water bottles.

Meb Keflezighi's Journey

The first time I saw Meb Keflezighi run was at Stanford when Meb was just beginning to make his mark at the elite level in running. He had just won a 5K on the track under the lights. It was the last event of the meet and a crowd had gathered around him down on the homestretch.

It wasn't just any crowd, it was his extended family, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, all there to watch and celebrate with Meb, a veritable village of Eritream Americans there to support their favorite son. This strong family connection, their story of immigration to the US, and the experiences they have had in pursuing the American dream are at the core of Meb's just published autobiography, Run to Overcome.

Written by veteran reporter, Dick Patrick, the story chronicles the amazing journey of Meb's father out of his native Eritrea to escape the domestic political violence and pursue a better life in the US. It's as much a book about the great melting pot that is America and the pursuit of the "American Dream" than it is about running. Family, friends, religion, and culture form the backbone of Meb's story.

You not only get a glimpse of life on the international running ciruit, but also a view of the reason many Africans emigrate to the US, the difficulties they faced in their native countries, and their drive to succeed. For Meb and his family, the US is the land of opportunity, the chance to escape potential poverty, political violence and persecution, and a very hard life in Eritrea.

While they don't forget where they came from and still have great affection for the land of their birth, there can be little dispute that their's is the classic American success story. The incident last year after Meb became the first American in 27 years to win in New York where a writer called him a "ringer" who, because he was born African, wasn't really an American only gets a brief mention in the book, but it is clear that it stung.

The writer was forced to apologize for his error and Meb writes that his initial reaction was both to sue the writer or ask him to write his biography so he would get to know him better. As he says in the book, he acted on neither thought, but they provide a glimpse of who Meb is. A driven, dedicated, tough competitor who, like any other successful athlete will make you pay for your mistakes or slights, but also a very warm, forgiving person who wants to see the best in people, who makes friends easily, and values those relationships.

The book is full of similar anecdotes about Meb, his family, the sport, and the people he's met on his long journey through the world of what New York City Marathon race director and creator of the internationally acclaimed five-borough extravaganza in the Big Apple, Fred Lebow, called Big Time Marathoning. New York doesn't need stars, it makes stars, Fred used to say, and Meb would certainly agree with that. Despite the fact that Meb won an Olympic silver medal, it wasn't until he won his first marathon in the streets of New York that he really became "a star" in the eyes of the general public.

On Sunday Meb will be defending his title in New York and his book release is timed to take advantage of the afterglow of his victory. It's a valuable addition to running lore and has the unusual format of regular tips at the end of chapters--runner's tip and overcomer's tip. The short bits are designed to motivate and educate readers, especially young readers, on what Meb thinks is important in both those arenas and gives the book an extra dimension.

A portion of any profits from the book will go to his newly formed MEB Foundation, which will "focus on promoting health, fitness and education in the United States and Eritrea." The foundation was also launched during marathon week in New York and is another example of Meb's core values of giving back, sharing the "wealth," just as others have shared with him throughout his life.

As he notes in the book he graduated from UCLA "with a specialization in business," and his acumen in that area is evident as well. He has had a busy year since his New York win making personal appearances, acting as spokesman for products he endorses, working with Patrick to get his bio finished in time for this year's race, and generally maximizing the business side of his running career. He talks openly about some of his endorsement contracts and how they are structured and the book gives a glimpse of the financial details of the sport.

His Twitter and Facebook pages regularly promote his products, such as the www.runtoovercome.com website that was created for the book, the promotion to give away signed copies of the book, and to promote his other sponsorships. It's all part of the American dream, paying the bills, and being a success not only in competition, but in the marketplace as well. Meb's brother is his agent, and Meb writes in the book about how the family invested in a grocery store as part of their pursuit of the American dream. Not a wise investment as it turns out, but, like in running, he notes, you can't win every race and not everything you touch turns to gold.

As the book's title indicates this is not just a story about a runner. It's a life journey, an African journey, an American journey. And on Sunday that journey will continue in the streets of New York.

A copy of the book was provided by Tyndale House Publishers for review.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Kara Goucher Talks Marathoning

Kara Goucher gives her views on her experiences at the NYCM HERE.

Katie McGregor Talks About Upcoming NYCM

An interview with Katie McGregor prior to Sunday's ING New York City Marathon is HERE.

Ben Blakenship Leads Gopher Men at Big Tens

If you ask any of the Gopher's men's team or staff about the Big Ten meet, they will tell you that they had something to prove. Prove it they did with senior Ben Blankenship leading the way.

"We belong," said Blankenship, who finished third in the individual race, a little more than a second out of first. What the Minnesota men felt they had to prove was that they were among the elite in the Big Ten and the nation. Their effort at Big Tens put them third in the conference and they moved back into the top 25 in the coaches national poll, ranking 24th. They remain fourth in the Midwest Regional rankings behind Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Tulsa.

The Minnesota team was disappointed in their performances in both the Griak Invitational and the Pre-Nationals meet, said Blankenship, believing that they were better than what they displayed at those events. The difference between those meets and Big Tens, Blankenship said, was strategy. Ben blamed himself for the Pre-Nats results because, he said, his own early fast pace pulled along teammates Mike Torchia and Pieter Gagnon, causing both to go too fast with their results suffering as a consequence.

"What we did at Pre-Nats," said Blankenship. "Cast an ugly shadow, but it ended up working in our favor in two ways. It got people motivated. It was like a thorn in people's sides. And it showed us what happens when you don't run your own race."

Everybody got caught up in the moment and went out too fast, then had to recover or couldn't recover fully to get back into the race, Blankenship said. "Griak and Pre-Nats gave us the opportunity to test the waters," he said. "We certainly did that and it didn't work out so well. We knew we were better than that. So we had something to prove to ourselves."

On prior form, Big Tens was Wisconsin's race to lose with Indiana a strong second. Thus, realisitically the best the Gophers could hope for was a third place finish, yet they came within 26 point of Indiana in part, Blankenship says, because both Indiana and Wisconsin ran conservatively, feeling each other out for most of the first half of the race. "Guys tend to run with a little more caution," said Blankenship. "The top women tend to go out and spread things out, but it seems more with the men we'll sit back and wait for something to happen."

This allowed the Gophers to relax, settle in and stay close to the front of the huge front pack that formed. "Ohio State, Penn State, they all had their guys up there," said Blankenship. Somewhere around 6K, Blankenship decided that it was time to make a move. "Vince McNally from Penn State, I think it was, was leading," he said. "I was really feeling good. I was thinking there's around 2K to go. I was trying to figure out where the mile to go mark would be because I'm pretty confident of my ability to finish and I figured I probably had the best mile finish, so I made a break, tried to shake things up a bit.

"I think (coach Steve) Plas(encia)was just as surprised as I was. I looked over at him and he had sort of a blank look on his face as I went by. Nowhere in my visualization of how the race was going to go had I pictured this, but I thought it was the right thing to do." Big Ten 10K champ on the track Mohammed Ahmed eventually covered the move and then threw in some surges of his own.

"I thought I was cruising," said Blankenship. "But Mohammed really took off, it seemed like he threw in a 60 second quarter there. I wasn't surprised because he did the same thing to (teammate Chris) Rombo(Rombough) last year in the Big Ten 10K, so I had to decide to go with his surges or just sit back a little and see what happened."

For a brief time, Blankenship was in "no man's land," alone some meters behind Ahmed and in front of the chase pack. Soon Indiana's Andrew Bayer(who finished second) and Andrew Poore(who faded to 18th); Wisconsin's Landon Peacock(who won)and Elliot Krause(fifth place finisher) caught Blankenship and the running version of the cycling "peleton" went after Ahmed, who looked to have the race in hand until he started climbing the final hill on the final straigtaway to the finish.

"He'd(Ahmend) looked really smooth before then, but just got ugly," said Blankenship. "I think it was a struggle for all of us at that point, but he seemed to be coming apart."

Bayer and Peacock whipped past Ahmed with Blankenship in their wake. The duo dueled it out to the finish with Peacock edging past Bayer near the line and Blankenship closing strong in the final steps. "I don't know if there was anything I could have done differently that might have changed the outcome," Blankenship said. Behind him, fellow senior Torchia finished 14th, sophomore 17th, sophomore Kevin Lachowitzer was 30th and frosh Andrew Larsen came in 37th.

"A pretty good day for the Gophers," said Blankenship. "I really want to point out Keven Lachowitzer. He's had a somewhat tough career. He's had a few injuries." But he came through in the clutch, Blankenship noted, as did the rest of the team. Now it's on to the next challenge, the Midwest Regional meet in less than two weeks. There looms number one ranked Oklahoma State and eighth ranked Oklahoma, the favorites to go one, two.

"Realistically, it's Oklahoma State's race to lose, just like it was for Wisconsin at Big Tens," said Blankenship. "We've gone back and forth with Oklahoma in the past." This puts Minnesota in the position of having to upset Oklahoma to be confident of advancing to the NCAA Championships or finishing an impressive third or fourth and sweating out the selection committee's decision of who to invite to the "Big Show."

"We haven't run our best yet," says Blankenship. He notes that his extended track season this summer--he ran the NACAC Championships in Alabama in July, then took six weeks off to recover, coming into cross country season fearing he was "out of shape," but instead discovering that the rest may have been a "blessing in disguise," as he's more refreshed and ready to go as the season's big meets approach. It has been the trademark of Plasencia's teams at the U that they have peaked at the right time. They all hope that tradition will continue.

Blankenship at the front of the pack at the Big Ten Championships. Photo by Sean Hartnett

Final High School XC Polls Are In

The Section Meets are history and the final coaches polls are out in anticipation of the MSHSL Championships on November 6 at St. Olaf. Three team champions and three individual champs return to defend their titles. 2008 state champ, Lukas Gemar, a senior at Moorhead, also returns in the Class AA race.

Section results can be found HERE. The coaches polls for team and individuals are available HERE.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Twin Cities in Motion Looking for Race Director

Looking for a low stress, short hours, low profile job in the running community? Well, you probably don't want this one, but Twin Cities in Motion has announced that they are seeking a replacement for Brian Mastel, who has been the race director of the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon since 2004. The new position would include duties on all of Twin Cities Motion events, not just the marathon.

To apply or for more information, you can e-mail jobsearch@mtcmarathon.org or write to: Twin Cities in Motion, Attn: Race Director Job Search, 4040 Olson Memorial Highway, Suite 26.2, Minneapolis, MN 55422

Big Ten Slide Show By Sean Hartnett

Sean Hartnett was busy on Sunday, taking photos of the runners at the Big Ten Cross Country Championships. You can view his photographic chronology of the races HERE(the men) and HERE(the women).

Gopher Men Get Two Thirds at Big Ten XC Champs

Ben Blankenship finished third in the individual race and the University of Minnesota men's team placed third at the Big Ten XC Championships near Madison on Sunday. Coach Steve Plasencia talks about the race and the challenges ahead.

Down the Backstretch: The guys came through on the day with their best performance so far this season. What do you do to prepare them for a challenge such as this? You said going in that there was some pressure because of the bad meet at Pre-nationals. How did that factor in for Big Tens?

Steve Plasencia: When the Big Ten gets together for a conference cross country championship there is going to be some “blood on the ground” when it’s over, you just hope too much of it isn’t your team's. The guys who have been around one or more of these championships know that. So I gently remind the team of the task at hand and basically let team leadership do the rest. Coming off a performance at the Pre Nationals that we were not happy with served to sharpen our focus in preparation.

DtB: You weren’t that far out of second, what were your expectations going into the meet?

SP: We said that realistically we were probably looking at third as a best possibility because Indiana and Wisconsin, to this point, had been significantly ahead of the rest of the teams. At the same time we felt that if one of the teams started to “show some cracks” we wanted to have our minds open to the possibility that we could move up.

DtB: They said on the tape of the race that the team was in seventh around halfway, so they came like gangbusters over the last half. Did the downhill help? Obviously nobody panicked. What was going through their minds midway and the last half?

SP: We had talked about the last several K of the course. We had heard they were fast, and saw nothing in viewing the course that would make us believe otherwise. In hindsight, after PreNats, we felt that one of the things that hurt us is that we got out a little over our heads early and then struggled over the last part of the race. We felt we could gain more by having our legs in the second half. After halfway, I counted Kevin Lachowitzer, our fourth guy, in 42nd. He finished 30th. Andrew Larsen we counted at that same point in 55th. He ended up 37th. I tried to emphasize to those two during the last half that they were gaining, and there were more individuals ahead that did not look nearly as strong as they did. Bringing down those big numbers helped significantly.

The guys nearer the front, Ben, Torch, and Pieter, really got into a good position relatively early and held in there. The initial pace was not fast, as I think Wisconsin and Indiana were kind of measuring each other.

DtB: All seven of the guys ran nearly within a minute of one another. Do you think the move up to 10K will help you or challenge the guys in Regions?

This week we will recover and train and not think too much about the Regional meet. I think we have trained over time that we can run either 8 or 10k, but as always there will be a couple of guys who are more comfortable with the longer distance, and a couple that are not thrilled with the prospect. You can’t dwell on that too much.

DtB: The individual race for first must have been nerve racking to watch. What were your thoughts as you saw it unfold? Did you and Ben learn anything from it that will help in the rest of the season?

SP: In all honesty I was moving around so much and then trying to count some scores at the finish that I really did not get to watch the race up front too closely. I think Ben found some answers for his cross country running and should move ahead into the next meets with confidence.

DtB: Did everybody come out of the meet healthy and ready to go for Regions?

SP: As far as I know, at this point we are healthy.

DtB: What are the obstacles there to overcome to go on the Nationals?

SP: Two obvious obstacles are Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.
Down the stretch they come in the Big Ten men's race. Photo by Sean Hartnett

Stephanie Price Talks About Her Race

Stephanie Price "came up big" in the Big Ten conference XC Championships on Sunday, barely missng becoming the second Gopher woman to win the individual title. Below she talks about her race and her plans for the rest of the season.

Down the Backstretch: This has been something of a breakthrough year for you. Did you have any idea going into it that you would have this level of success?

Stephanie Price: Well of course you can never predict how one season or even one race is going to turn out. There are things that are in your control as an athlete and things that are completely out of your control. I just try to take care of the things I can and control what I can control. I have my goals and knew the work I had put in to be successful, but I never could have imagined the season playing out like it has so far.

DtB: On the video done by the U communications folks, Coach Wilson notes that you were crying after the finish. It was close. He said he'd told you before the race that you could get in the top six. What were your thoughts and expectations going into the race?

SP: Going into the race I was definitely nervous, but that’s nothing unusual for me. But I was also much more relaxed than I would have been any previous season and that just comes with experience and confidence. I try not to put expectations on myself because at this level, no one deserves anything. We all work so hard and on any given day it’s anyone’s race.

I just set my goals and mentally put myself in the hunt.

DtB: After coming so close to winning, was the crying something of an outlet for coming so close? What did you learn from the experience that you didn't know before?

SP: I definitely learned the importance of believing in yourself to take a chance during a race. But more importantly, I learned that you win some and you lose some, and that is just the way it is. You have to know that every time you step up to the line, anything can happen and all you can control is your preparation and your mental edge during the race. But in the end, no matter how it finished, you look back and appreciate having the chance to do what you love, and you learn from the mistakes you made and move on.

DtB: The team this year is young, talented, and deep. How does that factor into your efforts and enjoyment of the experience?

SP: Before this season, I had a lot of older, more experienced teammates to look up to and to pull me through. But this season, it has been an opportunity to step up into a new role and to step up as a leader. There are no expectations put on us because no one knows what we are capable of.
It has been really exciting and refreshing to have a new group of girls and we are all learning so much as we go along that is going to make us so much better in the years to come.

DtB: Both the XC and track teams at the U emphasize the "family" aspect of the teams. The bonding of team members and enjoyment of the experience. Does that contribute to the success of the programs? How?

SP: That plays such a huge role in our success. We all care about each other more as family members than teammates, and to our coaches we are more than just runners. They care about us first and foremost as young women, and not just about how well we can perform for our team. It shows a lot at meets like this where we have nearly our entire roster road trip to the meet just to run around and cheer and carry flags for us. Just knowing we have that much support behind us helps pull us through. I

DtB: What are your goals for the remainder of the cross country season?

SP: No matter what happens the rest of the season, I just want to enjoy being on such a great team and doing what I love to do. Finishing times and places matter for that moment, but in the long run what will matter is the experiences I have had being on this team. I just don’t want to ever lose perspective of what a great opportunity I have been given and to remember that nothing is a guarantee.

Stephanie Price(55)pushes the pace during the Big Ten XC Champs. Photo by Sean Hartnett