The No. 15 Minnesota men’s cross country team will make its 10th NCAA Championships appearance in 11 years after earning an automatic NCAA berth on Saturday with a runner-up finish at the 2007 NCAA Midwest Region Championships in Peoria, Ill. All five Golden Gopher scorers earned All-NCAA Midwest Region honors Hassan Mead, Chris Rombough, Forrest Tahdooahnippah, Justin Grunewald and Mike McFarland.
“It feels great to be heading back to the NCAAs,” said Golden Gopher head coach Steve Plasencia. “Everyone ran well today.”
Minnesota gathered 57 team points with several of its individual performances mirroring the finishes recorded at the Big Ten Championships two weeks ago. Mead, a true freshman, finished second at both Championships covering the regional 10-kilometer course at the Newman Golf Course in a time of 29 minutes, 57 seconds. His time is the fourth fastest in school history.
Mead took a brief lead at the 8-kilomter mark but was out-kicked by Illinois’ Trent Hoerr down the stretch, finishing just one second behind the winning time of 29:56.
“Hassan ran a solid race and is learning something every time he steps on the course,” said Plasencia of his prized freshman. “He handled his first 10K very well.”
Rombough, a returning All-American, matched his Big Ten finish as well, posting a fourth-place showing at the Midwest Region meet. The Gopher junior clocked a time of 30:08.
Tahdooahnippah, an All-NCAA West Region honoree last year as a member of the Stanford squad, added an NCAA Midwest Region accolade to his resume with a 10th-place finish in a time of 30:12. The top 25 individual finishers receive all-region acclaim.
The fourth Gopher all-region honoree was senior Justin Grunewald. Since giving back his redshirt season by running at the Big Ten meet, Grunewald has enjoyed the best performances of his Gopher career. He placed 16th at the Midest Region meet in a time of 30:33.
McFarland, a redshirt freshman, finished 25th to earn all-region honors with a time of 30:54. The race was McFarland’s first 10-kilometer race of his Gopher career.
Also competing for Minnesota was junior Ben Puhl, who finished 31st in 31:01 and senior Rick Furseth, who was 39th in a time of 31:17.
Oklahoma State, ranked 12th nationally, won the team title with 47 points.
Minnesota will make its 10th NCAA Championships appearance during the tenure of Plasencia as head coach. The Gophers begin a new streak of Championships berths after missing the national meet last season, breaking a streak of nine consecutive trips to the NCAA Championships.