Roy Griak Invitational Home | Gophers Preview
Sixteen NCAA Division I programs and more than 200 competitors will line up to start the Merrill Fischbein Men’s Gold Competition on Saturday, Sept. 23 at the Roy Griak Invitational, held at Les Bolstad Golf Course in Falcon Heights, Minn.
When it comes to the individual competition, three of last year’s top six finishers are back in action including 2016 Merrill Fischbein Men’s Gold Competition champion Jerrell Mock of Colorado State. Mock ran the eight-kilometer course in 25:06.4 a year ago and will look to become just the third man in race history to repeat as individual champion (BYU’s Kip Kangogo in 2003 and 2002, Providence’s Ben Noad in 1998 and 1997).
Joining Mock as the top individual returners are Ryan Robinson of Michigan State (third a year ago) and Obsa Ali of Minnesota (sixth a year ago).
It’s also worth noting that Colorado State will be one of the favorites to compete for the program’s first team title this year although the Rams have carried the individual champion in back-to-back years of the Merrill Fischbein Men’s Gold Competition (Jefferson Abbey won the race in 2015, joining defending champion Jerrell Mock).
As for the team competition, we’ll once again crown a new champion in 2017 as defending team champion Portland elected not to field a team for this year’s Griak Invitational. Despite its absence, the level of competition for this year’s team championship will be high.
Four of the 16 registered teams for this year’s Griak Invitational find themselves on the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) national rankings as of press time.
Iowa State leads the way in 12th while the Cyclones are the defending runner-ups for the Merrill Fischbein Men’s Gold Competition. The top returning team to the Griak field will be looking for their fifth overall title and first since 2009.
Mentioned above, Colorado State is right there with the Cyclones at No. 18 in the national polls while UCLA stands at No. 22 and Michigan State comes in at No. 25. All four nationally ranked teams in this year’s field posted top-10 team finishes last year at the Griak Invitational.
Minnesota and Navy also will enter Griak week while receiving votes in the USTFCCCA national polls.
As for the hosting Golden Gophers, a ninth-place finish at last year’s Griak Invitational has the Maroon & Gold hungry for more this year, and Minnesota has the experience here to do just that.
Four of the team’s five scorers are back in the field including Obsa Ali, who finished sixth here a year ago and went on to earn his second-straight NCAA All-Region honoree. Second Team All-Big Ten honoree Charlie Lawrence also factored into the team scoring as did Joey Duerr and Derek Wiebke, who later added All-America honors and a Big Ten title in the indoor mile during track season. The Maroon & Gold also have a young crop of talent looking to make an impact led by Connor Olson, who was Minnesota’s sixth finisher here a year ago and went on to earn Second Team All-Big Ten.
All told, the 2017 Griak Invitational is shaping up to be another highly competitive day of cross country. We’ll see how it all plays out on Saturday.
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