The Minnesota men’s and women’s cross country teams have already embarked on a 2006 campaign heavy with promise and expectations. The Golden Gopher women are coming off the best season in school history with a ninth-place finish at the 2005 NCAA Championships. The Minnesota men have the fifth-longest active streak of NCAA Championships appearances in the nation with nine. On Tuesday, the Golden Gopher cross country programs continued their membership among the nation’s elite programs by being included in the preseason polls of the respective men’s and women’s coaches associations.
The Minnesota women, led by the return of two All-Americans in Ladia Albertson-Junkans and Emily Brown, checked in at No. 16 in the preseason FinishLynx Division I Women’s Cross County Poll. Stanford was tabbed the No. 1 team in the nation, followed by Colorado, Michigan, Oklahoma State and Brigham Young in the top five.
The Gopher men are ranked No. 23 in the USTFCCCA Men’s Division I Cross Country Poll. Minnesota, which finished 20th in the NCAAs a year ago, returns All-American and Midwest Region medalist Antonio Vega to lead the pack. Defending NCAA champion Wisconsin was selected to the No. 1 spot, followed by Arkansas, Colorado, Stanford and Texas.
Minnesota is one of five Big Ten schools (Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan State the others) to land both its men’s and women’s programs in the national polls. Overall, 16 schools hold this distinction for the season’s first national ranking.