The Golden Gopher women’s cross country celebrated yet another season of success at their recent team banquet. Highlighting the event was the awarding of the most valuable runner award that was shared by junior Megan Duwell and senior Gabriele Anderson.
Minnesota has firmly secured its program among the nation’s elite. The Gophers finished the 2008 season with an 11th-place showing at the NCAA Championships last fall. With that finish, Minnesota is now one of only three schools (Stanford and Illinois the others) to earn a top-12 NCAA finish over the last four seasons.
“It was another spectacular season,” said veteran Golden Gopher head coach Gary Wilson, who was honored as the NCAA Midwest Region and Big Ten Women’s Coach of the Year Awards. “Not only were the women great on the field, but also in the classroom. They are a class act and fun to work for.”
Duwell, a West Bend, Wis., native, emerged as the Gophers’ top runner from the first meet of the season. She earned All-Big Ten First Team accord by placing fourth at the Conference Championships, added another fourth-place finish at the NCAA Midwest Region Championships and went on to capture her first career All-America honors placing 32nd at the NCAAs.
Anderson, from Perham, Minn., enjoyed her finest season as a Golden Gopher, running throughout the season to the team’s number-two position. She finished six seconds out of All-America contention, but did earn All-NCAA Midwest Region honors with a 12th-place showing and All-Big Ten Second Team acclaim with a 10th-place effort.
“Both Megs and Gabe gave so much to this team that it wasn't possible to just have one MVP,” said Wilson. “We will sure miss Gabe next year. She has been a rock to this program. And what more can one say about the improvement of Megan. She was simply awesome all season.”
The Gophers, with over 50 student-athletes on the roster, are the largest women’s team in the nation. These talented women teamed to win their second consecutive Big Ten and NCAA Midwest Region titles. They also were champions in the classroom, compiling an impressive 3.59 grade point average in the Fall 2008 semester.
The most valuable runner award was not the only honor shared among teammates. Julie Schwengler and Heather Dorniden were co-recipients of the Coaches’ Award, and Mallory Van Ness and Kelly Wilson shared the team’s Most Improved Runner Award.
Stephanie Price earned the Freshman of the Year Award, and Felicitas Mensing was named the Rookie of the Year, a award that goes to an athlete in her first season overall at Minnesota.
Amy Laskowske was honored with the Comeback of the Year Award, while Jamie Cheever collected the Tough as Nails Award and Meghan Mason the Blue Collar Award.
The Gopher program named the team’s inspiration award in honor of Carl Barylak, the father of senior captain Katelyn who passed away after a long battle with cancer. Katelyn was the recipient of the very first Carl Barylak Inspiration Award.