Golden Gopher Cross Country This Week:
23rd Annual Roy Griak Invitational
Falcon Heights, Minn.
Les Bolstad Golf Course
9 a.m. Women’s Maroon III Race
9:45 a.m. Women’s Maroon II Race
10:30 a.m. Men’s Maroon III Race
11:20 a.m. Men’s Maroon II Race
12:10 p.m. Men’s Gold Race
12:55 p.m. Jack Johnson Women’s Gold Race
1:40 p.m. Larry Zirgibel Boys’ Gold HS Race
2:25 p.m. Girls’ Gold High School Race
3:10 p.m. Boys’ Maroon High School Race
3:55 p.m. Girls’ Maroon High School Race
Golden Gopher Watch List Sept. 27, 2008
Minnesota Hosts 23rd Annual Roy Griak Invitational - The Minnesota men’s and women’s cross country teams will host the 23rd Annual Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 27, at the University of Minnesota Les Bolstad Golf Course in Falcon Heights, Minn. The meet is one of the largest in the nation each year.
Record Number Expected to Compete in 2008 - The 2008 Griak Invitational is expected to challenge several competition records this year. Approximately 350 teams are expected to compete with over 4,000 student-athletes entered in the Griak’s 10 races. The records, both set in 2007, are 361 teams and 3,505 runners.
Gopher Women Are Defending Champs - The Golden Gopher women won their third Griak team title in 2007, but will receive a stiff challenge from No. 5-ranked Arizona State for the 2008 crown.
Gopher Men All-Americans Make Season Debut - Gopher All-Americans Chris Rombough and Hassan Mead will make their 2008 season debuts at the Griak. Rombough finished third in the Griak in 2007, the highest finish ever for the Gopher men’s program.
Want Even More Information? - Check out Minnesota’s website gophersports.com for further information on the Griak Invitational, including a list of competing teams, course maps, admission prices and parking instructions.
Minnesota Hosts 23rd Annual Griak Invitational
The Minnesota men’s and women’s cross country teams will play host to the 23rd Annual Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 27, at the University of Minnesota Les Bolstad Golf Course in Falcon Heights, Minn. A record number of athletes are expected to compete in the event again this year, making the Griak annually one of the largest cross country meets in the nation.
Roy Griak - A Minnesota Legend
The Roy Griak Invitational is named after a living legend, former Golden Gopher cross country and track coach Roy Griak. Griak has spent the last 45 years with the Minnesota Athletics Department, 33 of those coaching. Since his retirement from the coaching ranks in 1996, Griak has served as the administrative assistant for the men’s cross country and track programs. Griak, who has attended 21 of the 22 Invitationals, will celebrate his 85th birthday on Oct. 5.
Details, Details: Admission, Parking, Etc.
Ticket prices for the 2008 Griak are $5 for adults and $2 for students. Children under 6 years of age are free. No pets will be allowed on the course. Spectator parking is available on the St. Paul Campus, a short walk away from the course.
And the Winner Is...
Team and individual results of the 2008 Griak Invitational will be placed on the Golden Gophers’ website gophersports.com as quickly as possible following the completion of each race.
Another Record-Setting Griak is Expected
Entries indicate the 2008 Roy Griak Invitational may turn out to be the largest in the 23-year history of the event. An anticipated 4,000-plus athletes are expected to compete over the 10 races. The records stand at 361 teams and 3,505 finishers in 2007.
Griak, Wright Are Honorary Referees in 2008
The Roy Griak Invitational will have two honorary referees oversee race day. The 2008 Honorary Griak Invitational Collegiate Referee is none other than the legend himself - Roy Griak. The invitational that bears his name has grown by leaps and bounds as in 2008, we celebrated the 23rd running of what is now simply known nationwide as The Griak. From a humble beginning in 1986 with 27 teams and 250 runners to over 350 teams and 3,500 competitors a year ago, the Griak Invitational is annually the highlight of the Minnesota cross country season.
The 2008 Honorary Griak Invitational High School Referee is Lefty Wright. It seems only fitting that Wright and Roy Griak are honored in the same year at the Griak. After all, these two best of friends are nearly inseparatible when it comes to Minnesota cross country and track.
Wright has worked with the Gopher cross country and track programs as a starter and official of 40 years, and yes, he has been involved with each and every of the 22 previous Griak Invitationals. His connection to Roy Griak, goes back to the early 1950s. In fact, Griak was Wright’s high school coach. The two then coached together at St. Louis Park, leading the school to the 1961 state title. When Griak moved on to the U, Wright took over the head coaching duties at St. Louis Park. Wright retired from St. Louis Park in 1993 after spending 18 years as a social studies and history teacher and another 18 years as the school’s athletic director.
The meet was first contested in 1986 and was named the Minnesota Invitational from 1986-94 and the Norstand Invitational in 1995-96, until it was renamed the Roy Griak Invitational in 1997. The meet has grown from 220 finishers in 1986 to a record 3,505 competitors in 2007.
35,000th Griak Finisher to Cross Finish Line
Over the last 22 years, 33,387 runners have completed the Griak course, meaning that an athlete likely in the Men Maroon II Race will have the distinction of being the 35,000th finisher in Griak history. Entering the 2008 event, 3,493 teams have competed.
High School Race Renamed to Honor Cross Country/Track Official Larry Zirgibel
The Griak Boys’ Gold Race has been renamed the Griak Larry Zirgibel Boys’ Gold High School Race in honor of the memory of Larry Zirgibel, a longtime cross country/track official who passed away suddenly last May. Zirgibel was a veteran of the Griak Invitational officiating crew, as well as so many championships from the Big Ten Conference to the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) to the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC).
Women’s Race Honors the Late Jack Johnson
The Griak Women’s Gold Race has the title of the Griak Jack Johnson Women’s Gold Race to honor the late Jack Johnson, a long-time equipment manager for the Golden Gopher who passed away in February of 2005.
The Griak Gold Race Field
The Griak Gold Races have once again drawn several of the nation’s top teams. Overall 25 teams make up the Gold Men’s field, while 23 teams are in the Gold Women’s field. Among the men’s field are five teams (Minnesota, 8th; BYU, 22nd; Arizona State, 26th; Iowa State, t-30th; and Ohio State, t-30th) that competed in the 2007 NCAA Championships.
The Griak Jack Johnson Women’s Gold field is 23 teams strong and includes three teams (Arizona State, 4th; Minnesota, 12th and Duke, 24th) that advanced to the NCAA Championships a year ago.
The Returning Champions
Minnesota is the defending champion in the Women’s Gold Race, but a new individual champion will be crowned since 2007 Griak medalist Emily Harrison (Virginia) was a senior. The Men’s Gold Race will crown both a new team and individual champion. Northern Arizona is not entered in the 2008 field. The men’s medalist was Northern Arizona’s Lopez Lomong, who carried the flag for the U.S. in the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The Golden Gophers
Minnesota is poised for both its men’s and women’s teams to contend for top Griak finishes as both the Golden Gopher squad enter the meet ranked ninth in the nation.
The Gopher women, the defending Griak champion, will be challenged by No. 5-ranked Arizona State with Minnesota getting the chance to see how its talent and depth stack up with a team that earned a trophy finish (4th) at the NCAA Championships a year ago. Minnesota is led by All-American Jamie Cheever, who finished 33rd at the NCAA meet in 2007. It is the tight-packed depth of the Gophers, however, that is necessary for Minnesota to make a repeat of a Griak title a reality. With a roster that has 10 runners with NCAA Championships experience and eight of those with All-NCAA Midwest Region accolades on their resumes, the Gophers compete knowing one of several runners may step it up for a top-level finish at any time. Early on, junior Megan Duwell has been running at the lead of the Gopher pack and is coming off her first career victory winning the Oz Memorial Run two weeks ago. Other Gophers to watch are Gabriele Anderson and Elizabeth Yetzer.
The Gopher men are chasing their first Griak title and should receive their biggest competition from BYU. Minnesota is paced by All-Americans Chris Rombough and Hassan Mead, both of whom will be making the 2008 season debut on Saturday. Watch for Rombough and Mead to also contend for the individual Griak title, after finishing third and sixth last year. The Gophers’ top-seven is a work in progress. Mike McFarland earned all-region honors last season and is certainly in the mix. Mike Torchia is running well coming off an injury-ridden 2007 campaign. Names new on the scene and capable of making a splash at the Griak are redshirt freshman Sean Olson and transfer Ben Blankenship.
Griak High School Champs Running for the Gophers
A number of the native Minnesotans on the Golden Gopher rosters competed at the Griak during their high school careers. The 2006 Griak Boys Gold champion Hassan Mead and the 2005 Griak Boys champion Mike Torchia (2005) will compete for the Minnesota men on Saturday and are among the three former Griak high school champs (Forrest Tahdooahnippah, 2002, the other) to run for the Gophers. Elizabeth Yetzer, a 2005 Griak Girls’ Gold champion and now a junior, is the fourth Griak high school champion to later run for the Gopher women (Anna Gullingsrud, Victoria Moses and Stefanie Zeihan).
Griak Notes of Interest
Only three runners have been able to win the Griak Men’s Gold Race title twice. Providence’s Ben Noad won back-to-back Griak titles in 1997 and 1998 while BYU’s Kip Kangogo won in 2002 and 2003. Wisconsin’s Matt Tegenkamp won the title in 2001 and again in 2004.
The Griak Women’s Gold Race has also had only two repeat champions, Fran Ten Bensel (Nebraska) in 1991 and 1992, and Kim Smith (Providence) in 2003 and 2004.
Wisconsin-Platteville’s Tyler Sigl is the first three-time Griak champion. Sigl won the 2005 and 2006 Griak titles in the Men’s Maroon Race, which were contested with scholarship and non-scholarship entries at the time. He won this third title in the Maroon III Race in 2007, the first year the maroon field was split into II and III.
Other two-time Griak champions are Vladimir Golias (Central Missouri State) - Men’s Maroon in 1997 and 1998; Sarah Anderson (Wisconsin-Superior) - Women’s Maroon in 1997 and 1998 and Jonah Kiptarus. Kiptarus won the 1994 Men’s Maroon title as a member of the Barton County squad, then returned as a Nebraska runner to win the 1996 Men’s Gold crown.
Minnesota has three Griak titles to its credit, all on the women’s side, with wins in 1988, 2000 and 2007. The best finish for the Minnesota men was second in 2006.
The only Golden Gopher to win the individual title was Rasa Michniovaite in 1998. The highest finish from the Golden Gopher men’s team was a third-place showing by Chris Rombough in 2007.
Brigham Young’s Kip Kangogo set a new Griak record over an 8-kilometer course, winning in a time of 23:38.9 in 2002.
The Women’s Gold Race was lengthened from 5K to 6K in 2000. The 2004 champion, Providence’s Kim Smith set the 6K record with a time of 20:10.
Wisconsin leads the way with 11 Griak men’s titles. The women’s event has had 12 different teams win in the Griak’s 22-year history with Arizona State and Providence each with four team titles leading the way.
Wisconsin is the only school to win the men’s and women’s Griak titles in the same year, doing so in 1997.
Of the 31 men’s teams that competed in the NCAA Championships in 2007, six of them ran in the Griak Invitational. Five (5) women’s teams that competed in the Griak also advanced to the 31-team 2007 NCAA Championships.
Roy Griak has missed only one Griak Invitational in its 23-year history. In 2000, Griak missed the meet to attend a once-in-a-lifetime reunion of World War II Army veterans. Griak will be an award presenter at the meet again this year.
Minnesota women’s head coach Gary Wilson in is his 24th year with the Golden Gophers. But several coaches bringing teams from the state of Wisconsin have ties to Wilson from his successful coaching stint at Wisconsin-LaCrosse prior to coming to Minnesota. Wisconsin-LaCrosse’s men’s coach Don Fritsch, Wisconsin-Platteville’s Tom Antczak and Wisconsin-Whitewater coach Jeff Miller are former athletes of Wilson’s at LaCrosse.
Four teams have used Griak Gold Race titles to help propel them to NCAA Division I team championships: the Wisconsin men in 1988, the Iowa State men in 1989, the Villanova women in 1989 and the Providence women in 1995. Wisconsin was the 2005 Griak runner-up, then went on to win the NCAA title.
Six individuals won Griak titles in seasons in which they won the NCAA crown: Villanova’s Vicki Huber in 1989, Iowa State’s John Nuttall in 1989, Wisconsin’s Kathy Butler in 1995, Providence’s Keith Kelly in 2000, Providence’s Kim Smith in 2004 and Wisconsin’s Simon Bairu in 2005.
The most athletes to compete in any single Griak race was in 2007, when 563 athletes competed in the Women’s Maroon III Race. The Men’s Maroon Race was split into Maroon II and Maroon III in 2007 after 500 runners competed in 2006.
Iowa State won the Men’s Gold title in 1989 with 15 points, the only perfect team score in Griak history.
Griak individual titles have been decided by just one second a total of 10 times in the past 21 years. The most recent occurrence in the Gold Races was in 2006 when Stephanie Rothstein (UC Santa Barbara) edged teammate Lauren Chrstman for the Women’s Gold title. The duo actually recorded the exact time: 21:13. Minnesota’s only Griak medalist, Rasa Michniovaite, also won her race by just a second in 1998.
The two high school races were added to the Griak Invitational in 1994 and split into Gold and Maroon Races in 2004.
Griak Champions Women
Arizona State 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005
UC Santa Barbara 2006
Minnesota 1988, 2000, 2007
Michigan State 2002
North Carolina State 1993
Oregon 1989, 1994
Providence 1995, 1996, 1998, 2004
Wisconsin 1992, 1997
Griak Champions Men
Adams State 1992
Brigham Young 2005
Iowa State 1989, 1990, 1993
Northern Arizona 2007
Providence 1998, 2000
South Florida 1991
Wisconsin 1986, 1987, 1988, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2004