Head coach Sarah Hopkins shares her outlook for the 2016 cross country season
Danielle Anderson, Anne Haakenstad, Madeline Strandemo, and Tess Wasowicz will lead the Gophers this fall
Minnesota held its annual season-ending banquet and presented the team awards on Sunday
Four sprinters, six distance runners, three multi-event athletes, one thrower, and one hurdler will join Minnesota
Taylor Mikkalson, Molly Eastman, and Emily Castanias led Minnesota in its final home meet of the season Sunday
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 2016 cross country season marks her fourth season as the women's cross country head coach and 12th season 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.
Most recently, Hopkins' 2015 squad placed 18th in the program’s 11th-straight appearance at the NCAA Championships, securing the team’s highest NCAA finish since 2009. Minnesota also placed fourth at the 2015 Big Ten Championship, earning top-five team finishes in all three seasons with Hopkins at the helm of the program. Minnesota has also earned three top-three NCAA Midwest Regional finishes since 2013, placing third in 2015 after back-to-back runner-up finishes in Hopkins’ first two seasons. Five Gophers have earned All-Big Ten honors (Laura Docherty-2013, Molly Kayfes-2013, Maggie Bollig-2013, Liz Berkholtz-2015, Kaila Urick-2015) 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 11 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 11 athletes to second team All-Big Ten honors. An impressive 25 different Gopher runners have earned a total of 45 All-Midwest Region awards under Hopkins' guidance.
On the track, Hopkins has been on the coaching staff for all five Big Ten Conference team titles in Minnesota history. Most recently, Hopkins’ distance runners scored 43 points to help lead the Gophers to a share of the 2016 B1G outdoor title, including runner-up finishes by Liz Berkholtz (10,000m) and Madeline Strandemo (3,000m steeplechase).
Since Hopkins joined the coaching staff for the 2006 track & field season, Minnesota has collected 34 All-Big Ten awards in the distance events and had 30 NCAA Championship qualifiers in events 800-meters and longer, including 12-time NCAA qualifier Heather Dorniden making eight appearances in the 800m and four in the distance medley relay. The Gophers earned All-Big Ten honors in the DMR for five-straight seasons from 2007 to 2011.
Minnesota has seen marked improvement in the 10,000m under Hopkins with Gophers collecting four All-Big Ten awards in the event since 2009. 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 and improved to a runner-up showing at the 2013 Big Ten outdoor meet, and Liz Berkholtz earned four-straight top-eight Big Ten finishes in the 10,000m from 2013-2016.
The Gophers have also experienced success at 5,000m indoor and outdoor during Hopkins’ tenure. Duwell earned Indoor All-American honors in 2010, placing fifth with a program-record time of 15:59.23. Docherty (2013) and Molly Kayfes (2014) earned back-to-back Big Ten indoor runner-up finishes in the 5,000m, and most recently, Berkholtz and Kaila Urick earned top-eight finishes in the event at the Big Ten indoor and outdoor meets in 2016.
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.
Hopkins and her husband Chris have one son, Jack.
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