Gophers Off to NCAA Midwest Region Championships Gophers Off to NCAA Midwest Region Championships
Golden Gopher Cross Country This Week:
NCAA Midwest Region Cross County Championships
Host - Bradley U. Saturday, Nov. 13 Women — 11 p.m. (CST) Men — 12:15 p.m. (CST) Newman Golf Course Peoria, Ill.
Golden Gopher Watch List • Bring on the NCAAs - The Minnesota men’s and women’s cross country teams look to punch tickets into the NCAA Championships field when the Golden Gophers travel to Peoria, Ill., to compete in the NCAA Midwest Region Championships. The top two teams from the regional earn automatic NCAA berths, while additional at-large berths are announced on Monday, Nov. 15. The NCAA Championships is on Monday, Nov. 22, in Terre Haute, Ind. • Golden Gopher Women Look to Defend Title - The Minnesota women’s cross country team is the three-time defending team champion of the Midwest Region. Last year, the Gophers had their entire lineup capture all-region honors. • Gophers to Watch - Junior Stephanie Price and redshirt freshman Missa Varpness have been the Gophers’ top runners all season on the women’s side. Price was the Big Ten runner-up. The men are led by a trio of runners in seniors Ben Blankenship and Mike Torchia and sophomore Pieter Gagnon. Blankenship finished third in the Big Ten Championships. • Gopher All-American Mead to Miss Season - Gopher senior All-American Hassan Mead will miss the 2010 season due to injury. A three-time All-American, Mead won Big Ten and Midwest Region titles in 2008 and 2009.
NCAA Midwest Region Championships The Minnesota men’s cross country team travels to Peoria, Ill., on Saturday, Nov. 13, for the 2010 NCAA Midwest Region Cross Country Championships. Bradley University will host the Championships on the Newman Golf Course. The men’s 10-kilometer race begins at 12:15 p.m. CST.
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. 22. 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. 14. 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 and 2008, Minnesota placed second to grab one of the automatic qualifiers.The Gophers finished fourth in 2009 but still received an at-large NCAA Championships berth.
Often a Gopher Leads the Pack A Golden Gopher has captured medalist honors in five of the last eight 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. Then in 2008,Mead became the fourth Gopher to win the Midwest Region race. Mead defended his regional crown in 2009. All these Gophers 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 also topped the national poll. Oklahoma (No. 8), Minnesota (No. 24) and Tulsa (No. 27) are the other ranked teams in the field. A Quick Look at What Minnesota Needs to do to Advance Obviously the best scenario for the Gophers would be to earn one of the two automatic qualifiers for the national meet that are up grabs at the Midwest Region meet. That is a taller task this season than in the recent past, since the depth of quality teams in the region continues to improve. A third-place finish would likely be high enough for the Gophers to earn one of the at-large NCAA berths announced on Monday, especially important being Minnesota’s third-place showing at the Big Ten Championships. A finish lower than third puts the Gophers in dangerous territory as Minnesota’s 12th-place outing at the Pre-NCAA would likely come into play.
Gopher Return Three All-Region Performers Minnesota’s lineup includes three runners who earned all-region honors by placing in the meet’s top 25. Ben Blankenship, Mike McFarland and Mike Torchia are all seniors who earned all-region honors during their collegiate careers. 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 the Gophers’ potential lineup and a listing of any previous experience at the regional meet. Ben Blankenship (Sr., Stillwater, Minn./Stillwater HS/Mississippi State) 2007 - 25th, 31:42.83 *** South Region 2008 - 12th, 31:28.45 2009 - 28th, 31:48.3 Pieter Gagnon (So., Minneapolis, Minn./Washburn HS) 2009 - 38th, 32:02.8 Paul Hilsen (So., Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville South HS) 2009 - 117th, 34:27.7 Kevin Lachowitzer (So., Perham, Minn./Perham HS) Andrew Larsen (RFr., Glen Ellyn, Ill./Marmion) Mike McFarland (Sr., Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead HS) 2007 - 25th, 30:54 2008 - 24th, 31:56.85 2009 - 51st, 32:32.9 Sean Olson (Jr., Menomonie, Wis./Menomonie HS/UW-Milwaukee) Mike Torchia (Sr., Rochester, Minn./Lourdes) 2006 - 47th, 32:13.04 2008 - 20th, 31:41.10
Mead Out for the Season Minnesota senior Hassan Mead will miss the 2010 cross country season after suffering a collapsed lung during an easy training run in early September. Mead has struggled with injuries over the last year. Mead redshirted the 2010 indoor and outdoor track seasons with an Achilles tendon injury. Mead has one season of cross country and two seasons of track eligibility. Mead is a three-time NCAA cross country All-American and a two-time Big Ten and NCAA Midwest Region champion (2008 and 2009).
Minnesota, Ben Blankenship Third at Big Ten Championships Ben Blankenship’s third-place finish paced the Minnesota men’s cross country team to its finest performance of the 2010 season, placing third in the Big Ten Conference Cross Country Championships in Verona, Wis., on Oct. 31. Host Wisconsin ran away with its 12th straight team title finishing with all its scorers in the top 12 and tallying 28 points. Indiana was second with 75 points, while the Gophers scored 101 for third. The Badgers hosted the Championships on their new Zimmer Championships Course. “I’m pleased by our performance today,” said Golden Gopher head coach Steve Plasencia. “The guys carried out our race plan well. Our top six guys just kept moving up throughout the race. We got a great boost from Ben (Blankenship) running at the front.” Blankenship was part of a leading foursome that broke away in the final two kilometers of the race and battled for the individual title down the stretch. The top four racers finished within a 3-second span with Wisconsin’s Landon Peacock winning in a time of 23 minutes, 40.8 seconds, followed by Indiana’s Andrew Bayer (23:41.3), Blankenship (23:41.4) and Wisconsin’s Mohammed Ahmed (23:42.7). Blankenship garners All-Big Ten First Team accord for his performance. Senior Mike Torchia earned All-Big Ten Second Team honors with his 14th-place finish. Torchia covered the 8-kilometer course in a time of 24:02.7. Sophomore Pieter Gagnon was Minnesota’s third finisher, placing 17th in a time of 24:09.6. Another sophomore, Kevin Lachowitzer, was the fourth Gopher to finish, crossing the line in 30th-place in a time of 24:30.7. Redshirt freshman Andrew Larsen completed the scoring for the Gophers, tallying a 37th-place showing in 24:36.4. Larsen was the third freshmen finisher in the meet. Also competing for the Gophers were Sean Olson, who placed 43rd in 24:47.2; Erik Truedson, who was 52nd in 24:58.4; John Simons in 54th in 25:01.7; and Paul Hilsen, who placed 63rd in 25:13.9.
2010 Big Ten Conference Cross Country Championships Sunday, Oct. 31, 2010 Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course – 8K Verona, Wis.
Team Results 1. Wisconsin 1-4-5-6-12-(26)-(33) 28 2. Indiana 2-11-15-18-29-(45)-(56) 75 3. Minnesota 3-14-17-30-37-(43)-(51) 101 4. Penn State 8-13-27-34-46-(48)-(54) 128 5. Michigan State 16-23-31-32-39-(58)-(62) 141 6. Illinois 20-21-35-36-38-(52)-(59) 150 7. Ohio State 19-22-40-41-42-(49)-(57) 164 8. Michigan 7-10-53-55-60-(64)-(69) 185 9. Iowa 9-25-47-61-63-(65)-(67) 205 10. Purdue 24-28-44-50-66-(68)-(70) 212
Top Individuals 1. Landon Peacock (Wisconsin) 23:40.8 2. Andrew Bayer (Indiana) 23:41.3 3. Ben Blankenship (Minnesota) 23:41.4 4. Mohammed Ahmed (Wisconsin) 23:42.7 5. Elliot Krause (Wisconsin) 23:43.0 6. Maverick Darling (Wisconsin) 23:50.8 7. Bobby Aprill (Michigan) 23:50.9 8. Kyle Dawson (Penn State) 23:53.9 9. Jeff Thode (Iowa) 23:55.6 10. Craig Forys (Michigan) 23:57.6
Other Golden Gopher Finishes 14. Mike Torchia 24:02.7 17. Pieter Gagnon 24:09.6 30. Kevin Lachowitzer 24:30.7 37. Andrew Larsen 24:36.4 43. Sean Olson 24:47.2 37. Erik Truedson 24:50.4 54. John Simons 25.01.7 63. Paul Hilsen 25:13.9
Gophers Fifth in Griak Invitational Minnesota placed fifth in a talented field at the Griak Invitational on Sept. 25. The Gophers looked to a pair of seniors in Ben Blankenship and Mike Torchia to lead the way. Blankenship finished 10th in a time of 24:31.1, while Torchia was 14th in 24:42.4. Sophomore Pieter Gagnon was the third Gopher in the top 20, placing 15th in a time of 24:42.9. Minnesota Coaching Staff Golden Gopher head coach Steve Plasencia is in his 15th season leading the Minnesota program. Plasencia has guided the Gophers to NCAA Championships berths in 12 of his 14 years with his alma mater with the 2007 eighth-place NCAA finish the Gophers’ best since 1969. Volunteer assistant coach Chris Rombough is in his first year on the Gopher coaching staff after collecting three All-America honors in his Minnesota cross country career.