The Minnesota men's cross country team heads into the NCAA Midwest Regional Cross Country Championships on Saturday hoping to secure their seventh straight berth in the NCAA Championships. Oklahoma State is hosting the meet on the OSU Course. The men's race begins at 11 a.m. (CST).
What's Up for Grabs
Thirty-one (31) teams will earn berths to the NCAA Championships, which will be run in Waterloo, Iowa on Nov. 24. The top two teams from each of the nine regions automatically qualify for the Championships. Another 13 at-large teams will be added to the field and announced on Monday, Nov. 17. In addition, four individual competitors from each region, who are not part of qualifying teams, will also earn their way into the Championships field. These individuals, however, must finish in the top 25 at the regional championship to qualify.
20 Percent More for Your Money
For NCAA competition, both at the regional and national championships, the race distance is lengthened from 8 kilometers to 10 kilometers. That extra two kilometers makes the races 20 percent longer than the ones run during the regular season.
Minnesota at NCAA Regionals
The Golden Gophers have had success in recent seasons in NCAA Midwest Regional. Minnesota placed second a year ago, as Andrew Carlson captured medalist honors. The Gophers captured regional titles in 1999 and 2001 and have finished no lower than third in head coach Steve Plasencia's eight seasons at Minnesota.
Midwest Region Preview
Since the Midwest Region field is not as loaded with nationally ranked team as other regions, it is paramount to capture one of the automatic berths attached to the top two team finishes. Host Oklahoma State is the highest ranked team in the field at No. 23. Iowa checks in at No. 25, while Kansas and Minnesota received votes.
The Time is Now
Before Plasencia took over the Golden Gopher program, the longest Gopher streak of running at the NCAA Championships was three (1968-70). Another school record would be set if the Golden Gophers are able to collect their seventh straight NCAA Championships berth.
Three Gophers Have All-Region Accolades
Minnesota will enter a lineup of seven runners, none of whom have competed in more than one NCAA Regional Championship. Three Golden Gophers, however, collected all-region accolades in their first race at the regional level and return to lead Minnesota in its bid for a seventh straight NCAA Championships berth. Ryan Malmin and Ryan Ford finished 10th and 24th, respectively last season, to earn all-region honors. Erik Grumstrup was an all-region honoree in 2001, after an 18th-place finish.
Carlson Out for the Season
Senior All-American and team captain Andrew Carlson remains on the sidelines with a hip injury. Carlson won the 2002 NCAA Midwest Regional Championships title and went on to All-America honors with a 32nd-place finish at the NCAA Championships.
The Golden Gopher Lineup
Seven Golden Gophers will compete at the NCAA Midwest Region Championships. Following their name is a listing of any previous experience at the NCAA Regional.
Michael Bialick (Jr., Wayzata, Minn./Hopkins)
Ryan Ford (Jr., St. Cloud, Minn./Apollo)
2002 - 24th, 30:37.64
Erik Grumstrup (Jr., Black Hawk, S.D./Stevens)
2001 - 18th, 31:23.5
Ryan Malmin (So., Minnetonka, Minn./Hopkins)
2002 - 10th, 30:22.45
Luke Mullranin (Sr., Bemidji, Minn./Bemidji)
2001 - 41st, 31:39
Martin Robeck (Jr., St. Michael, Minn./St. Michael-Albertville)
2001 - 64th, 32:19.1
Antonio Vega (Fr., Oakdale, Minn./Tartan)
Big Ten Championships Review
Minnesota placed sixth with 159 points in the Big Ten Conference Men's Cross Country Championships in East Lansing, Mich., on Nov. 2. Wisconsin won its fifth consecutive title with 40 points.
The team results reflected the Big Ten's prominence in the national poll, as the top six Big Ten teams are included in the national rankings. No. 2 Wisconsin placed three runners among the top 10 finishers, including champion sophomore Simon Bairu, who covered the 8-kilometer course in a time of 23 minutes, 58.8 seconds. Michigan, ranked No. 6 in the nation, placed second, also placing three runners in the top 10 in tallying 57 points. No. 19 Indiana ran well, capturing third with 90, while No. 7 Ohio State was fourth with 93 and No. 25 Iowa finished in sixth with 144. Minnesota has received votes in the national poll throughout the season but was unable to defeat any of its ranked conference foes on this day.
Running in his first Big Ten meet, redshirt freshman Antonio Vega was impressive in finishing as the Golden Gophers' top runner. Vega placed 23rd with a time of 24:52.8. Erik Grumstrup was the second Gopher finisher, placing 29th in 25:05.0.
Ryan Malmin placed third for the Gophers, 30th overall, with a time of 25:05.3, despite losing a shoe early in the race. Other scoring Gophers were Michael Bialick, who placed 34th in 25:14.3, and Martin Robeck, who placed 43rd in 25:32.3.