Sophomore Chris Rombough followed his Big Ten championship performance with a runner-up finish at Saturday’s NCAA Midwest Region Championships at the Les Bolstad Golf Course. Rombough earned his way to the NCAA Championships field, but the Golden Gophers, who entered the meet ranked No. 15, placed sixth and dealt a hefty blow to hopes of a national meet berth as a team.
Rombough covered the 10-kilometer course in a time of 30 minutes, 47.19 minutes, a clocking that ranks as the second-fastest time by a Golden Gopher over a Bolstad 10K course. The only faster time (30:32.8) was turned in by current Minnesota head coach Steve Plasencia running for the Gophers at the NCAA regional meet in 1978.
Iowa senior Micah Vandenend captured Midwest Region medalist honors with a time of 30:40.14, winning by seven seconds over Rombough. Vandenend was among the race leaders throughout before pulling away and maintaining a lead in the final two kilometers.
Gopher senior Antonio Vega, the 2005 Midwest Region champion, earned his fourth career all-region honor. Vega finished 11th in a time of 31:07.04.
Minnesota’s third through seventh runners finished as a pack among a span of 14 places, however, the Gopher pack faltered late causing the team finish to slip to sixth. Ben Puhl crossed the finish line in 38th-place in 32:03.54. Rick Furseth (32:12.79), Mike Torchia (32:13.04) and Matt Barrett (32:18.24) finished in 46th, 47th and 49th respectively. Justin Grunewald added a 52nd-place showing in 32:25.34.
Oklahoma State landed all five of scoring runners in the top 25 to defend their Midwest Region team title with 72 points. Kansas was second with 88. Both teams are awarded the region’s automatic qualifying spots for the NCAA Championships. Iowa scored 121 points to edge Missouri by a single point. Minnesota tallied 140 team points.
Thirteen (13) at-large berths for the NCAA Championships will be announced on Monday. Rombough and Vega will advance as individuals if the Golden Gophers do not receive one of those at-large invitations. The NCAA Championships is Nov. 20, hosted by Indiana State in Terre Haute, Ind.