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Head coach Sarah Hopkins assesses the distance runners as they head into track & field season
Sarah (Hesser) Hopkins serves as the head coach of the Gopher women's cross country program and is an assistant coach for the women's track & field team. The 2014-15 season marks her second season as the women's cross country head coach and 10th with the program overall.
The 2013-14 season was Hopkins' first season as the head coach of the women's cross country program after serving as a volunteer assistant for eight seasons. She replaced long-time head coach Gary Wilson following his retirement after the conclusion of the 2012-13 track & field season.
Hopkins' 2014 squad made the Gophers' 10th-straight appearance at the NCAA Championships after placing second at the NCAA Midwest Regional and fifth at the Big Ten Championships. In Hopkins' first season at the helm of the program in 2013, the Gophers finished 20th at the national cross country meet after earning a runner-up individual (Molly Kayfes) and team finish at the Midwest Regional. Three Gophers have earned All-Big Ten honors (Laura Docherty-2013, Kayfes-2013, Maggie Bollig-2013) in Hopkins' time as head coach.
Since Hopkins joined the coaching staff in 2005, Minnesota has qualified for every NCAA cross country championship as a team and becomes one of only five programs in the nation to accomplish this feat (Minnesota, Georgetown, Stanford, Michigan and Michigan State). Minnesota has placed in the top 12 in the NCAA five of those 10 years. Since 2005, the Gophers have won the first two Big Ten Championships in program history (2007, 2008) and picked up three consecutive Midwest Region titles (2007, 2008, 2009).
Individual athletes have also seen great success since Hopkins joined the coaching staff. During her tenure, Hopkins has worked with five different athletes who collectively earned eight NCAA All-American honors in cross country. In 2009, Megan Duwell finished a program best seventh in the NCAA. At the Big Ten level, Hopkins has coached six athletes to a total of 10 first team All-Big Ten honors and nine athletes to second team All-Big Ten honors. An impressive 24 different Gopher runners have earned a total of 43 All-Midwest Region awards under Hopkins' guidance.
On the track, Hopkins has been on the coaching staff for all four Big Ten Conference team titles in Minnesota history. Working with the mid-distance and distance athletes, she is currently focusing on the longer distance events. During Hopkins' tenure, Minnesota has seen marked improvement in the 10,000m. Megan Duwell won the Big Ten 10,000m title twice (2009, 2010) and Amy Laskowske finish runner-up both years. Laskowske was an All-American at 10,000m in 2009. One of the highlights of Hopkins's coaching career on the track was a first, second, fourth finish for the Gophers in the 10,000m at the 2010 Big Ten Championships with Duwell, Laskowske and Mallory Van Ness. In 2012, Laura Docherty earned a fourth-place finish in the 10,000m at the Big Ten outdoor championship and improved to a second-place finish in the same event in 2013. The Gophers have also experienced success at 5,000m indoor and outdoor. Duwell earned Indoor All-American honors in the 5,000m in 2010, placing fifth with a school record time of 15:58.
Hopkins, a former Golden Gopher student-athlete on both the cross country and track & field teams, graduated Suma Cum Laude in May 2006, with a major in child psychology. She continued her education at Minnesota earning a master's degree in applied kinesiology: sport management.
The Minneapolis native was a three-time letterwinner in cross country and served as team captain as a junior and senior. She was honored as the Minnesota recipient of the 2005 Big Ten Conference Sportsmanship Award. Hopkins was also a three-time Academic All-Big Ten honoree and awarded the Gophers' Coaches Award in her junior season. Hopkins lettered once as a member of the track & field team and was a captain her senior season.
Hopkins owns a Level 1 Track & Field/Cross Country Coaching Certificate and is the 2012-2014 USTFCCCA Midwest Region Representative to the Executive Cross Country Committee.