Golden Gopher Cross Country This Week:
NCAA Midwest Region Cross Country Championships
Host - Oklahoma State
Saturday, Nov. 15
Women 11 a.m. (CT)
Men 11:45 a.m. (CT)
OSU Cross Country Course
Golden Gopher Watch List Nov. 15, 2008
Minnesota Compete in NCAA Midwest Region Championships - The Minnesota men’s and women’s cross country teams will travel to Stillwater, Okla., on Saturday, Nov. 15 to compete in the NCAA Midwest Region Championships. The 6-kilometer women’s race begins at 11 a.m., and is followed by the men’s 10-kilometer race at 11:45 a.m.
Gophers Chase NCAA Championships Berths - The top two team finishers from the nine regional championships around the country earn automatic berths to the Nov. 24 NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind.
Gopher Women Defend Big Ten Title, Seek Region Repeat - Minnesota won its second consecutive Big Ten title two weeks ago and enters the NCAA Midwest Region Championships as the defending champion.
Hassan Mead Wins Big Ten Title, Gophers Third - Sophomore Hassan Mead captured the Big Ten individual title and was named the Big Ten’s Runner of the Year. Senior Chris Rombough placed third overall, matching the Gophers’ team finish.
Gary Wilson Named Big Ten Coach of the Year - Veteran head coach Gary Wilson was honored as the Big Ten Women’s Cross Country Coach of the Year. Wilson is in his 24th season with the Gophers.
NCAA Midwest Region Championships
The Minnesota men’s cross country team travels to Stillwater, Okla., on Saturday, Nov. 15, for the 2008 NCAA Midwest Region Cross Country Championships. Oklahoma State will host the Championships on the OSU Cross Country Course. The men’s 10-kilometer race begins at 11:45 a.m.
Strong Up Front, Pack Hopefully on Heels
The Golden Gophers have one of the best one-two punches in the nation in All-Americans Hassan Mead and Chris Rombough. For Minnesota to pick up an automatic berth to the NCAA Championships, the rest of the Gopher pack needs to tighten the time gap between their frontrunners and third through fifth runners. Last season, Minnesota grabbed an automatic berth by adding a third and fourth all-region performer behind Mead’s and Rombough’s top-five finishes. Sophomore Mike McFarland returns as one of those all-region honoree. Watch for Matt Barrett or Mike Torchia to make an impact on the Gophers’ team finish on Saturday.
Region Meet Determines NCAA Field
Thirty-one (31) teams will earn berths to the NCAA Championships, which will be run in Terre Haute, Ind., on Monday, 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 must finish in the top 25 at the regional championship to qualify. Additionally two individuals will be chosen at large by the NCAA committee.
The Fifth Quarter in Football-Speak
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 the Midwest Region Meet
Minnesota is a perennial force at the NCAA Midwest Region Championships. The Golden Gophers have won team titles in 1999, 2001 and 2004. In 2007, Minnesota placed second to grab one of the automatic qualifiers.
Often a Gopher Leads the Pack
A Golden Gopher has captured medalist honors in three of the last six NCAA Midwest Region Championships. Andrew Carlson won the title in 2002 and 2004, followed by Antonio Vega in 2005. Chris Rombough ran to runner-up honors in 2006, a spot claimed by Hassan Mead in 2007. All four went on to earn All-America honors in the seasons they posted top Midwest Region finishes.
Midwest Region Championships Preview
The majority of the Big Ten, including Big Ten champion Wisconsin, compete in the Great Lakes Region, so the Golden Gophers will face several of the best teams from the Big 12 Conference instead. Oklahoma State is the top ranked team in the Midwest Region at No. 2 and receiving three first-place votes. Minnesota (No. 14), Tulsa (No. 15) and Iowa State (No. 21) are the only other ranked teams in the field. According to Gopher head coach Steve Plasencia, the Midwest Region field is stronger than it’s ever been. “In addition to the two teams that get those automatic berths, I expect our Region will also have a couple team earn those al-large spots into the NCAA field,” added Plasencia.
The Golden Gopher Lineup
Seven Golden Gophers will compete at the NCAA Midwest Region Championships. A team’s final lineup does not have to be declared until the day of the competition. Following is a list of possible participants and a listing of any previous experience at the regional meet.
Matt Barrett (Jr., Monroe, Wis./Monroe)
2006 - 49th, 32:18.24
Ben Blankenship (So., Stillwater, Minn./Stillwater/Mississippi State)
2007 - 25th, 31:42.83 *** South Region
Ben Kampf (Jr., Farmington, Minn./Farmington)
Mike McFarland (So., Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead)
2007 - 25th, 30:54
Hassan Mead (So., Minneapolis, Minn./Minneapolis South)
2007 - 2nd, 29:57
Sean Olson (R-Fr., Menomonie, Wis./Menomonie)
Ben Puhl (Sr., Rochester, Minn./Century)
2006 - 38th, 32:03.54
2007 - 31st, 31:01
Chris Rombough (Sr., Fremont, Wis./New London)
2005 - 13th, 31:22
2006 - 2nd, 30:47.19
2007 - 4th, 30:08
Mike Torchia (So., Rochester, Minn./Lourdes)
2006 - 47th, 32:13.04
Golden Gophers Ranked No. 14
The Gopher men are ranked No. 14 in this week’s USTFCCCA National Poll. Minnesota is one of five Big Ten Conference teams listed in the rankings with Wisconsin at No. 6, Michigan at No. 9, Indiana at No. 28 and Penn State at No. 29.
Hassan Mead Honored as Big Ten Runner of the Year, Puhl Honored as Well
Hassan Mead was named the Big Ten Conference Men’s Cross Country Athlete of the Year, announced by the Conference officials. The conference postseason honor is determined by a vote of the Big Ten cross country coaches.
Mead concluded the Big Ten season last weekend by capturing the individual title at the Big Ten Championships held at Michigan. Mead covered the 8-kilometer course in a time of 24 minutes, 26.4 seconds, winning the crown by over nine seconds. The Minneapolis South High School graduate also picked up two Big Ten Runner of the Week accolades during the 2008 season.
Mead is the fifth Gopher to win the Big Ten title and the second in three years as teammate Rombough captured Big Ten medalist honors in 2006. Rombough was Minnesota’s first Big Ten Cross Country Athlete of the Year in 2006.
The Gophers had three champions prior to the Big Ten awarding Athlete of the Year honors. Gary Bjorklund was a three-time champion in 1969, 1970 and 1971. Other Minnesota champions were Fred Watson (1913-15) and Leonard Edelen in 1957.
Wisconsin’s Mick Byrne was honored as the 2008 Big Ten Coach of the Year, while Penn State rookie Kyle Dawson earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year accord.
The conference office also announced the honorees from each of the 10 men’s cross country squads for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award. The student-athletes chosen are individuals who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior. In addition, the student-athletes must be in good academic standing and have demonstrated good citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting. The Minnesota recipient was senior Ben Puhl.
Mead Wins Big Ten Individual Title, Gophers Finish Third
Hassan Mead won the individual title at the Big Ten Men’s Cross Country Championships on Sunday, Nov. 2 in Ann Arbor, Mich. Mead and third-place finisher Chris Rombough led the Golden Gophers to a third-place finish in the team title chase.
Mead covered the 8-kilometer course at the University of Michigan Golf Course in a time of 24 minutes, 26.4 seconds, winning the crown that so narrowly escaped the Gopher harrier a year ago by over nine seconds in this his sophomore season. He placed second in 2007 as a true freshman, and led a good share of the race before being edged out in the final stretch.
“Winning the title feels great,” said Mead, a Minneapolis South High School grad. “This was one of my goals on the season so I’m really happy I accomplished it. I ran a relaxed race. I made my move at about the 5K and went all the way.”
“Hassan moved into the lead going up the last big major hill and just continued to build a gap on the next runner,” said Plasencia. “Hassan just continues to add to his savvy as a runner. He’s able to build off his success. It’s exciting for us that Hassan is so talented and is just a sophomore. He has great days ahead of him.”
Rombough added the third-place finish in a time of 24:42.1. The Gopher senior completed his Big Ten cross country career with three top-five finishes at the Conference meet.
Mead is the fifth Gopher to win the Big Ten title and the second in three years as teammate Rombough captured Big Ten medalist honors in 2006. Gary Bjorklund won his third straight crown in 1971. Other Minnesota champions were Fred Watson (1913-15) and Leonard Edelen in 1957.
Wisconsin continued its dominance in collecting its 10th straight Big Ten title. The Badgers landed all five of their scoring runners in the top 14 to score 40 points. Michigan was second with 57, edging Minnesota (60) for runner-up honors.
“Our guys ran well today,” said Golden Gopher head coach Steve Plasencia. “We did a nice job of tightening up our pack. Though we placed third as a team, points-wise we were closer to Wisconsin than we did last year when we placed second.”
Matt Barrett has battled injury throughout his career, but turned in his best performance as a Gopher on Sunday placing 15th, just one spot from All-Big Ten honors, in a time of 25:01.4. Barrett’s effort caught Plasencia’s attention. “As happy as I am for Hassan, I’m also pleased for Matt. He’s fought hard and he’s starting to put it all together.”
Mike Torchia finished 16th with a time of 25:03.3, while Ben Blankenship completed the Gophers’ scoring five by finishing 26th in 25:16.3. Also competing were Sean Olson (32nd, 25:26.3), Mike McFarland (42nd, 25:33.0), Ben Puhl (46th, 25:36.5) and Ben Kampf (56th, 25:47.1).
Minnesota Coaching Staff
Golden Gopher head coach Steve Plasencia is in his 13th season leading the Minnesota program. Plasencia as guided the Gophers to NCAA Championships berths in 10 of his 12 years with his alma mater with last fall’s eighth-place NCAA finish the best since 1969. In July of 2008, Plasencia was named the Golden Gophers’ head men’s track & field coach. Volunteer assistant coach Jason Havey is in his first year with the Gophers.