Oct. 25, 2012
The University of Minnesota men’s cross country team continues the 2012 season this Sunday at the prestigious Big Ten Championships in East Lansing, Mich.
Michigan State will host this year’s conference championships at Forest Akers East Golf Course with the men’s 8,000-meter race set for 11:45 a.m. ET.
“The Big Ten championship has such a great history, and it’s been going for so many years. There have been a lot of great battles and a lot of great athletes have competed and gone through this event,” Minnesota director of men’s track & field/cross country Steve Plasencia said. “It’s truly a prestigious meet and an important meet, and it means a lot to our guys to go out and represent the University of Minnesota.”
With all 11 Big Ten schools competing this weekend including three nationally ranked teams, the Gophers will have an opportunity to make a statement heading into next month’s NCAA Midwest Regional. Depending on finishes at the November regional, Minnesota’s performance this weekend against the likes of No. 11 Michigan, No. 20 Wisconsin and No. 24 Indiana could help the Gophers increase their chances of earning an at-large bid in the event the team does not secure an automatic bid.
“The Big Ten meet is always a high spot on the schedule, for some, maybe the most important meet of the year. Every point and every individual finish can have a big impact on the team standings,” Plasencia said. “Your performance at the conference championship can really define the season.”
Minnesota opened the 2012 season with a strong showing in September, finishing second to No. 5 BYU at the Autumn Classic and earning the program’s first-ever team title at the 27th annual Roy Griak Invitational. In their most recent action, the Gophers finished tied for 22nd among some of the top teams in the country at the adidas Invitational in Madison, Wis.
On Sunday, the significantly smaller field changes the dynamics of the race for Minnesota.
“There’s always going to be steep competition, but that’s what is fun about the Big Ten championship,” senior Pieter Gagnon said. “You know the people in it because it’s a smaller field and you’ve raced against them throughout the year. That can make the race a lot more personal than when you go to nationals and there’s 250 people racing.”
The Big Ten Network will air the 2012 Big Ten Cross Country Championships on tape delay starting at 8 a.m. CT on Sunday, Nov. 4.