Golden Gopher Cross Country This Week:
NCAA Midwest Region Cross County Championships
Host - Missouri State
Saturday, Nov. 14
Men — 12 p.m. (CT)
Women — 1:15 p.m. (CT)
Missouri State Cross Country Course
NCAA Midwest Region Championships
The Minnesota men’s cross country team travels to Springfield, Mo., on Saturday, Nov. 14, for the 2009 NCAA Midwest Region Cross Country Championships. Missouri State will host the Championships on the Missouri State Cross Country Course. The men’s 10-kilometer race begins at 12 p.m.
Mead Running For Title Defense
Golden Gopher junior Hassan Mead is the defending Midwest Region champion. A Minnesota runner has yet to notch back-to-back medalist honors at the regional meet. Mead was the runner-up his freshman season in 2007.
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. 23. 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. 16. 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.
Often a Gopher Leads the Pack
A Golden Gopher has captured medalist honors in four of the last seven 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. 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 at No. 2 in the national poll. Oklahoma (No. 18), Iowa State (No. 27) and Minnesota (No. 29) 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 has improved. A third-place finish would likely be high enough for the Gophers to earn one of the at-large NCAA berths announced on Monday. A finish lower than third puts the Gophers in dangerous territory as both Oklahoma and Iowa State defeated the Gophers in the Griak Invitational earlier this season.
Gopher Return Four All-Region Performers
Minnesota’s lineup includes four runners who earned all-region honors a year ago by placing in the meet’s top 25. Ben Blankenship, Mike McFarland and Hassan Mead are all juniors who earned all-region honors their first two seasons. Senior Mat Barrett earned his first all-region accolade last season.
Storkel a Team Player
True freshman Derek Storkel lifted the redshirt title from his season when his team called upon the rookie hoping to bring a solid fifth scorer into the lineup. Storkel ran well in his first collegiate action, placing 44th in the Big Ten Championships, helping the Gophers secure a third-place team finish.
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 Gopher lineup and a listing of any previous experience at the regional meet.
Matt Barrett (Sr., Monroe, Wis./Monroe HS)
2006 - 49th, 32:18.24
2008 - 19th, 31:40.60
Ben Blankenship (Jr., Stillwater, Minn./Stillwater HS/Mississippi State)
2007 - 25th, 31:42.83 *** South Region
2008 - 12th, 31:28.45
Pieter Gagnon (R-Fr., Minneapolis, Minn./Washburn HS)
Paul Hilsen (R-Fr., Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville South HS)
Mike McFarland (Jr., Hartland, Wis./Arrowhead HS)
2007 - 25th, 30:54
2008 - 24th, 31:56.85
Hassan Mead (Jr., Minneapolis, Minn./Minneapolis South HS)
2007 - 2nd, 29:57
2008 - 1st, 31:15.65
Derek Storkel (Fr., Tomah, Wis./Tomah HS)
Mead Continues to Build on Impressive Minnesota Resume
Junior Hassan Mead continues to build on a Minnesota running resume that already has him ranked among the very best to ever compete for the Maroon and Gold. Mead captured All-America cross country honors in both 2007 and 2008 after placing second (freshman season) and first (sophomore season) at the Big Ten Championships. He defended his Big Ten crown this season. Mead is also a three-time track All-American. He has already won five individual Big Ten track titles, winning the outdoor 5,000 meters in both his first two season with the Golden Gophers.
Mead Wins, Gophers Third at Big Ten Championships
Minnesota junior Hassan Mead captured the individual title at the Big Ten Cross Country Championships leading the Golden Gophers to a third-place finish in the team standings.
Mead covered the 5.2-mile course at the Penn State Cross Country Course in a time of 25 minutes, 0.2 seconds. He is the third Gopher to win two or more Big Ten cross country crowns, joining Fred Watson (1913-15) and Garry Bjorklund (1969-71). Mead is the 19th Big Ten multiple champion and first since Wisconsin’s Simon Bairu won back-to-back crowns in 2004-04. Mead, who crossed the finish line 5.7 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor, also collected his third All-Big Ten First Team honor of his career.
Senior Matt Barrett contributed a ninth-place finish to earn All-Big Ten Second Team accord. Barrett was timed in 25:35.2.
The Gophers compiled 97 team points to finish third behind Wisconsin (26) and Ohio State (91). The Badgers won their 11th straight Big Ten title.
Completing the scoring for the Gophers was Ben Blankenship, who finished 18th (25:53.4); Pieter Gagnon, who placed 27th in 26:09.4; and Derek Storkel, who finished 42nd in 26:41.9.
Other Gophers running were Paul Hilsen, who finished 55th in 27:06.2; and Mike McFarland, who placed 66th in 27:42.9.
Mead Claims Second Big Ten Weekly Honor of 2009 Season
For the second time in the 2009 season, Minnesota junior All-American Hassan Mead was honored as the Big Ten Conference Runner of the Week. Mead tallied a third-place finish in the White Race at the Pre-NCAA Meet in Terre Haute, Ind. He clocked a time of 23 minutes, 49.2 seconds over the 8-kilometer LaVern Gibson Championship Course.
The award is the fourth of Mead’s Golden Gopher career. The Big Ten defending champion, Mead was honored twice with Runner of the Week accolades during the 2008 campaign, and earlier this season after winning the Griak Invitational title.
Mead Fifth in Pre-NCAA White Race
Hassan Mead placed fifth in the White Race at the Pre-NCAA Meet in Terre Haute, Ind., on Saturday, Oct. 17. Minnesota placed 11th as a team. The meet is held at the LaVern Gibson Championship Course, the same facility that plays host to the NCAA Championships in November. An 8-kilometer course was traversed in the Pre-NCAA Meet. The race distance will jump to 10 kilometers for the national meet.
Mead clocked a time of 23 minutes, 49.2 seconds over a soft, somewhat muddy course. A year ago, Mead set the Minnesota 8-kilometer record at the Gibson Course with a time of 23:33.1.
Ben Blankenship tallied a 24th-place showing as the Gophers’ number-two runner. Blankenship crossed the finish line in 24:11.2. Matt Barrett was 60th in a time of 24:39.1, while Pieter Gagnon placed 90th in 25:00.8. Paul Hilsen was the final Gopher scorer, placing 162nd in 25:51.3.
“We had a good, not great outing, today,” said Golden Gopher head coach Steve Plasencia. “Our top four ran solid but we just need to move our fifth guy up. That gap between 90 and 162 is too big. It’s the different. We have another runner up there in the mix and we would have a much better finish as a team.”
Other Gophers competing were Sean Olson, who placed 173rd in 25:59.6, and Travis Burkstrand, who finished 200th in 26:24.7.
The Gophers compiled 341 points in the team standings. Stanford captured the team win in the White Race with 47 behind individual titlist Chris Derrick (23:27.1). Oregon won the Blue Race team title with 79 points.
Mead Wins Griak Title, Gophers Fourth as a Team
Golden Gopher All-American Hassan Mead set Minnesota history on Saturday (Sept. 26), becoming the first Minnesota men’s cross country runner to capture medalist honors at the Roy Griak Invitational. Mead, running his first meet of the 2009 season, covered the 8-kilometer course in a time of 24 minutes, 37.5 seconds.
Despite placing three runners in the top six, Minnesota finished fourth in the team standings with 101 points. Ben Blankenship posted an impressive fourth-place finish running a time of 24:56.9, while Matt Barrett tallied a sixth-place showing in 25:01.0.
Mead pushed the pace of the race early on then ran comfortably from the front and extending his lead. The defending Big Ten champion, Mead won the Griak crown by over 12 seconds over runner-up Iowa State’s Guor Majak.
Minnesota Coaching Staff
Golden Gopher head coach Steve Plasencia is in his 14th season leading the Minnesota program. Plasencia has guided the Gophers to NCAA Championships berths in 11 of his 13 years with his alma mater with the 2007 eighth-place NCAA finish the Gophers’ best since 1969. Volunteer assistant coach Jason Rengo is in his first year with the Gophers.