MINNEAPOLIS (GopherSports.com) – Gophers newcomer Alex Plasencia is one of seven true freshmen on the Minnesota men’s cross country roster this year.
A native of Shoreview, Minn., Plasencia is the son of Minnesota Director of Men’s Track & Field and Cross Country Steve Plasencia and joins the Maroon & Gold following a prep career at Mounds View High School. The freshman was a six-time all-conference pick (two in cross country, two in hockey, two in track) and a 10-time letter winner. Plasencia was the 2015-16 Mounds View High School Student-Athlete of the Year.
GopherSports.com caught up with one of the newest members of the Maroon & Gold as he kicks off his first year with the program.
Gophersports.com: What made you decide to be a runner?
Alex Plasencia: Well I have a history of running in my family with my dad. Also, I like to compete and it’s another outlet I can do that in aside from the other sports I played.
GS: What other sports did you play?
AP: I played a variety of sports growing up but mainly hockey. I played hockey until my senior year of high school and now that I’m running I don’t play it anymore. It was always a toss-up of which one I liked better. I think running grew on me more. I more started out growing up with a love for hockey but running grew on me as it got more competitive and I got older.
GS: Do you see any similarities between the two sports?
AP: They definitely go against each other physically. I always had to get a little bigger for hockey and then I’d lose weight for running. In terms of the mental state you’re in, the competitive level, and the heart that you need, they’re definitely similar sports.
GS: What’s one of your favorite places to go on a run?
AP: There’s an area by my house called North Oaks that I like and there’s also a trail around Pleasant Lake that I like to go run on. It’s a very calm, secluded, and soft path. There’s some wildlife too that I like to look at. Whenever I can run with my teammates, I enjoy that. I find conversations while running to be fun.
GS: What motivates you to improve as a runner?
AP: I’d say I’m a competitive person so I definitely want to be the best that I can be and beat whatever team I’m competing against today. I think my competitive nature is something I was born with and something that came out of me as I played some different sports and looking up to my older brother and always wanting to beat him growing up definitely instilled a sense of competition in me. My brother is two years older than me so he’s always had an advantage over me so I always had to find ways to be scrappy and beat him. It was a healthy competition. I think I have the edge over him in cross country and runner but he’s got the edge in baseball. It’s a constant battle.
GS: How does your relationship with your dad and coach differ and is similar at school versus at home?
AP: It’s a unique situation. I know a few people thought this would be weird for me but I haven’t noticed it at all. It’s been good. We have a professional relationship at school and we have a separate, personal relationship at home. I personally enjoy it. I don’t think it’s been detrimental for anyone else on the team. It’s hard to completely avoid talking about cross country at home but sometimes you have to leave it at the office so we try not to bring it up.
GS: How did you learn to solve a rubric’s cube?
AP: Last year, I was sick from school one day and was lying in bed bored. I thought I should do something but I was too sick to do anything so I got a rubric’s cube and I learned how to do it. It took me a whole day and sometime after that. It seemed like if I was going into engineering, it’s something I should know how to do.
GS: What kind of engineering do you plan on working in?
AP: Right now I’m looking at material science engineering, or chemical engineering. I’m interested in the fields of chemistry and mathematics a lot. It’s where I find my passion and what I want to make a career out of.
GS: What would your dream job be?
AP: From when I was a kid, I wanted to be in the NHL; that ship has sailed. I hate to say this as a Wild fan, but the Blackhawks as an organization I think would be a lot of fun to play for.
GS: What’s your experience been like your first season on the cross country team?
AP: So far I’ve had a really positive experience. It’s a great group of guys, especially a great freshman class, that I’ve gotten to know and really become good friends. We’re a very competitive team and we’re looking to have a bright future next year. My freshman class is looking really deep for the future which bodes good things to come.
GS: What does the team like to do together outside of running?
AP: Our favorite sport is pingpong. We’re definitely very competitive in pingpong. Obsa Ali calls himself the best pingpong player on campus. We have a friendly competition on the team. I like the competition aspect of it and everyone on the team is at a level-playing field. Nobody has a big pingpong background.
GS: If you could bring one item or one person on a desert island with you, who or what would that be?
AP: I would bring a football. Although that would mean also bringing another person. I like throwing around a ball. It brings endless opportunities for fun.
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