Follow along with the 2009 Griak Invitational as results and recaps will be posted throughout the day.
There were plenty of motivating factors for Minnesota's Megan Duwell in the women's gold race of the Griak Invitational and the senior delivered to give the Gophers just their second individual champion in the 24-year history of the event.
Duwell ran 25 seconds faster than her runner-up finish from a year ago and posted a time of 21:01 for the victory. It was her final career Griak race and she wanted to overcome that runner-up finish from last year while joining Rasa Michniovaite in 1998 as the only Gophers to win on the home course. Along with Hassan Mead's men's win for the Gophers, it was only the second time a school swept both the men's and women's titles as Wisconsin accomplished the feat in 1997.
"It's a pretty sweet victory, especially being my last year of Griak," she said. "You're sort of sentimental when it's your last big race like Griak. I'd say it's a great way to go."
Iowa State placed five runners in the top 10 to dethrone Minnesota as the team champion and capture its first Griak title. Iowa State matched the Gophers' low team score from last year with 31 points, while Minnesota was second with 48 points. Iowa State became the third school to win both men's and women's Griak titles in the same year, joining Providence in 1998 and Wisconsin in 1997. The Cyclones had three runners even with Duwell through the first mile, but the Gopher senior pulled away in the next mile and extended her lead throughout the final four kilometers.
"I felt pretty good," Duwell said. "The competition was tough. I could feel them all around me or right behind me pushing me the whole way, so it was a great race for everyone. It was a fast day."
Iowa State's Lisa Koll was second in 21:13 and teammate Betsy Saina was third in 21:28. The Cyclones also got top 10 finishes from Alphine Tuliamuk, who was seventh in 21:56, Semhar Tesfaye, who was ninth in 21:58 and Grace Kemmey, who was one second back in placing 10th.
Minnesota's Nikki Swenson was eighth overall in 21:57 and the Gophers had three consecutive finishers from 12th to 14th place as Minnesota and Iowa State combined for 10 of the top 14 finishers. The Gophers' Elizabeth Yeter posted a time of 22:02, Amy Laskowske ran 22:04 and freshman Kayla Wagner timed 22:08. Minnesota ran without its No. 2 runner Jamie Cheever, who was ill.
Michigan State finished third overall with 80 points and was led by a pair of top-five finishers in Emily MacLoed, who was fourth in 21:41 and Carlie Green, who placed fifth in 21:44. Utah Valley was fourth in the team standings with 135 points and got a sixth place finish from Mary Nothum in 21:53.
Duwell was disappointed the Gophers were unable to make it three straight team titles, but hopes for bigger things later in the year when Minnesota goes for three consecutive Big Ten championships.
"We didn't taper much," she said. "This meet is so early in the season we're still training pretty hard. We maybe let down a little bit so we could have fresh legs for the race, but we're going to be right back at it again to get good training for the rest of the season."
Hassan Mead put the hammer down early and created little suspense in becoming Minnesota's first Griak Invitational men's champion in the 24-year history of the event.
The Gophers' junior was runner-up last year, but left little doubt in winning this year's race. He built a 13-second lead through the first mile and maintained that cushion throughout the eight-kilometer course, finishing with a winning time of 24:38. Iowa State's Guor Majak was the only threat to Mead and looked to close on occasion, but Mead answered every time as Majak finished second in 24:51.
Majak was one of three Cyclones in the top 10 as Iowa State won its first Griak men's team title since 1993 and fourth overall with 71 points, edging Big 12 rival Oklahoma by three points. Duke was third with 94 points and Minnesota was fourth with 101 points. The Cyclones entered the meet ranked 25th nationally, while Minnesota was ranked 17th.
"The last two years I kind of struggled at nationals during the first mile," Mead said. "I didn't feel comfortable going out that fast. So I had to work on a new strategy of going hard the first mile, going with the pack and then getting comfortable. I didn't expect everybody to stay back that far the first mile. Then I thought everyone was going to come back in the race after that. I had a gap and I was just trying to keep it up the last 3K."
Minnesota had three of the top six finishers as Ben Blankenship was fourth in 24:57 and Matt Barrett was sixth in 25:01. However, after that, the Gophers placed 32nd and 58th to finish fourth as a team.
"We've got a real young team," Mead said. "Me and Matt Barrett, one of the captains, are the oldest guys. Besides that, everyone else is either a sophomore or a freshman, so it's a young team but I think they raced well today."
Iowa State got a seventh place finish from Hillary Bor in 25:05 and Yonas Mebrahtu was one second back to finish ninth. Oklahoma's top finisher was Bill Kogel in 10th place in 25:06 as the Sooners' top five runners were a remarkable 14 seconds apart.
Bo Waggoner helped Duke place third in the team standings with his third place individual finish in 24:54. Justin Tyner of Air Force was fifth overall in 24:58 as the Falcons were eighth as a team to lead all three service academies in the field. Navy placed ninth and Army was 11th.
But the story of the day was Mead and his start-to-finish domination. He became the first individual to win a Griak collegiate and high school championship, having won the boys' high school event in 2006 at Minneapolis South High School.
"Being on the home course with the crowds following you around like that, it's insane," Mead said. "I don't think a Gopher won since the thing's been held the last 24 years - team or individual, so this year I was definitely trying to please the crowd and get something in the record book."
Men's Maroon II
Michael Pierce dominated the field and led his Southwest Baptist squad to its first Griak Invitational team title in the men's Maroon II race.
Pierce, a senior, cruised to a winning time of 25:23 for a 17-second win over Minnesota State-Mankato senior James Krajsa. He was among five Southwest Baptist runners in the top 23 as the Bearcats totaled 61 points to outscore Concordia (Neb.), which had 86 points. It was Southwest Baptist's first Griak team title and Pierce was the Bearcats' first individual titlist.
"The first mile was a little slow," Pierce said. "I was just going to kind of wait and see if I could make any moves. On the little two downhills, I picked it up there to see if anyone would go. I was planning on doing that. The main field was together and I was just kind of testing to see if anyone would go with me and I was feeling pretty good so it worked out."
Regina (Sask.) only had four runners finish and didn't qualify for the team standings, but freshman Wyatt Baiton placed third overall with a time of 25:47. Scott Egberg of Minnesota State-Moorhead placed fourth overall in 26:00.
Zach Meineke of Concordia (Neb.) was fifth in 25:59 and teammate Dana Schmidt was three seconds back to help the Bulldogs' runner-up team finish. Jeremy Glassmaker of Southwest Baptist was seventh in 26:08 to bolster the Bearcats' championship effort.
Augustana (S.D.) placed third overall with 97 points to edge Minnesota State-Mankato by just one point. The Vikings had no runners place among the top 13 finishers, but only 43 seconds separated their five finishers. Dakota State was fifth with 155 points.
Men's Maroon III
A new face helped UW-La Crosse get back to a familiar place atop the Griak Invitational men's Maroon III race standings as the Eagles won their third straight team title and sixth in the past nine years.
Freshman Zach Wilhelmy exploded away from the pack just past the five-kilometer mark and held onto his big lead to dethrone defending champion Dan Greeno of Bethel with a time of 25:27. Wilhelmy was among four runners in the lead pack until his burst to take about a 70-meter lead by the six-kilometer mark. Greeno was unable to cut into the lead and finished in 25:39.
The Eagles placed all five scoring runners among the top 18 finishers to easily take the team title with 48 points. UW-Platteville was second with 81 points and Emory (Ga.) placed third with 113 points. UW-La Crosse has won all three Maroon III races and took four Maroon II titles from 2001-05.
"My plan was to stick with the leaders until 5K," Wilhelmy said. "I was going to try and press a little bit and if they came with I was going to hold back until 6K because that 5 to 6K loop is very up and down. It breaks a lot of runners, so all of a sudden I just went and no one came.
"My coach Don Fritz said, 'If you take the lead, you commit to the lead and you don't let it go,'" Wilhemly added. "I just had to stay with the commitment of the race and it turned out well."
Charlie Meade of Emory placed third in 25:42 and Jason Garvens paced UW-Platteville with a fourth-place finish in 25:44. St. Olaf's Dobuol Ruon was fifth in 25:48.
UW-La Crosse's other four scorers were all seniors as Connor Lonning was sixth in 25:51, Scott Hayden was ninth in 26:04, Dallas Vincent placed 14th in 26:21 and Paul Moran was 18th in 26:27. Just one minute separated the Eagles' first and fifth finishers.
Women's Maroon II
It was a repeat of last year in the women's Maroon II race of the Roy Griak Invitational as Minnesota Duluth's Morgan Place ran to the individual title, edging Osbie Birru of Grand View down the stretch. Place's performance also led the Bulldogs to their first-ever team title.
Place and Birru, both sophomores, had already broken from the pack by the first mile mark and Place eventually pulled away about four kilometers into the six-kilometer race. Place's winning time was 21:55 and Birru finished in 22:09. It was a significant improvement over Place's winning mark of 22:16 from last season.
"The race went well," Place said. "(Birru) was pushing me the whole way. At probably 2K left, I was like, I better get away from her because I didn't know how much left I would have. It was a tough race, but it felt good."
Place became just the second repeat winner in the women's Maroon II race history, joining Sarah Anderson of UW-Superior, who won back-to-back in 1997-98.
"It feels unbelievable," Place said of her consecutive wins. "I mean, last year was an unbelievable year and I surprised myself so much. I just wanted to come back this year stronger and just try and keep getting better and making small improvements."
Ali Paul of Minnesota State-Mankato made a late surge, but finished just one second back of Birru to place third in 22:10. Katrina Bruckschwaiger of Manitoba was fourth in 22:13 and Anna Van Wechel of Minnesota State-Moorhead placed fifth in 22:26.
Minnesota-Duluth totaled 78 points for a five-point victory over Manitoba. The Bulldogs had a balanced effort with five runners among the top 25. Melanie Gregoire's sixth-place effort helped Manitoba's runner-up finish.
Two-time defending champion Augustana (S.D.) placed three runners among the top 11 collegiate finishers, but placed third with 85 points. Myram Hovda was eighth for the Vikings in 23:02 and senior classmate Molly Clark was one second back to place ninth. Augustana freshman Kyle Blakeslee was 11th in 23:17.
Women's Maroon III
Already a national champion, Bethel's Marie Borner can now call herself a Roy Griak Invitational champion.
The returning NCAA Division III titlist, Borner burst out to the lead from the outset of the women's six-kilometer Maroon III race and posted a winning time of 21:37. She was the runner-up in the past two Griak Invitationals, but wasn't about to finish second three straight years.
"I've definitely been looking at this meet because I've been second two years in a row now," Borner said. "I think because our school is from Minnesota and we have a lot of fans here I was kind of hoping to win one before I graduate."
Borner and UW-Oshkosh senior Ayla Mitchell were stride-for-stride over the first four kilometers of the race before the Bethel senior took over. Mitchell, who ran at Minnesota her freshman year, was unable to stay with Borner and finished 13 seconds back at 21:50.
"It felt pretty good," Borner said. "The first mile was a little quick I think (5:33). I tried to relax. Ayla is tough. I kept trying to make surges and she was right there the whole time. On the last K I felt good about my legs so I tried to take off and go as hard as I could without looking back."
UW-La Crosse pulled out the team title in a tight race among its conference rivals. The Eagles totaled 93 points for their first Maroon III race title. They won the Maroon II championship in 2005. Katelynn Williams led the Eagles by placing eighth in 23:01. UW-Oshkosh finished second with 108 points as Jenny Piskor recorded a seventh place finish in 23:00. Defending champion UW-Eau Claire was third with 112 points.
Simone Childs-Walker of Carleton was third in the individual results in 22:16, while Anna Kraayenbrink of Wartburg was fourth in 22:31. Linda Keller of Minnesota-Morris was fifth in 22:46 and Jenny Scherer of St. Norbert placed sixth in 22:50.