The Minnesota men’s cross country team placed third in the NCAA Midwest Region Championships on Saturday in Peoria, Ill, while three Golden Gophers ran to all-region honors.
No. 8 Oklahoma scored 43 points to upset No. 1 Oklahoma State (50) to capture the team title. Both teams, however, will receive an automatic qualifying berth to the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., on Nov. 22. Minnesota scored 119 points for third points and must wait for the NCAA to announce 13 at-large berths into the Championships field.
The Gophers are squarely on the bubble. If Minnesota does earn an NCAA berth, third-place finishes at both the Big Ten Championships and the NCAA Midwest Region meet. Another key performance for the Gophers was their fifth-place showing at a talent-laden Griak Invitational.
“We did what we could today, but we’ll just have to wait and see if it’s enough,” said Golden Gopher head coach Steve Plasencia. “It will come down to what happened in the other regions around the country.”
Ben Blankenship led the Gophers with a seventh-place finish to earn his second career all-region honor. Blankenship covered the 10-kilometer course at Bradley University’s Newman Golf Course in a time of 29 minutes, 58.34 seconds. If the Gophers as a team do not make the NCAA field, Blankenship will due to his seventh-place regional showing.
“Ben ran a smart, steady race today,” said Plasencia. “He was part of the second pack that had to run with a lot of discipline. He did a nice job.”
Oklahoma’s Kevin Schwab pushed out to a huge lead but was unable to hang on for the win. Oklahoma State’s Colby Lowe caught Schwab at the finish line to win by just four-hundredths of a second (0.04). Lowe clocked a time of 29:30.70, to 29:30.74 for Schwab. The pair crossed the finish line over 15 seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
Mike Torchia also earned all-region honors for the second time in his career. Torchia finished 12th in a time of 30:13.78 and was joined on the all-region team by Pieter Gagnon, who was 18th in a time of 30:26.20. The top 25 finishers are accorded all-region honors.
Minnesota’s scoring was completed by Kevin Lachowitzer, who placed 39th in a time of 31:05.66; and Andrew Larsen, who finished 45th in 31:11.96.
Also competing for the Gophers were Sean Olson, who placed 59th in 31:29.31; and Mike McFarland, who finished 62nd in 31:38.83.