SaturThe 18th annual Roy Griak Invitational will be as big and exciting an event as ever. A field of over 200 collegiate and high school cross country teams and over 2,000 competitors will compete on Saturday, Sept. 27, in one of the seven races contested. The Invitational is held on the Les Bolstad Golf Course in Falcon Heights, Minn., and is annually one of the largest cross country meets in the nation.
The Golden Gophers and their NCAA Division I opponents will compete in the Gold Races, set for 12 noon for the men's 8-kilometer race and 1 p.m. for the women's 6-kilometer event.
2003 Roy Griak Invitational Saturday, Sept. 27 Race Schedule 9 a.m. Women's Maroon III Race 10 a.m. Men's Maroon Race 11 a.m. Women's Maroon II Race 12 noon Men's Gold Race 1 p.m. Women's Gold Race 2 p.m. Boys' High School Race 3 p.m. Girls' High School Race The Roy Griak Invitational is often a proving ground for teams which go on to complete their seasons by competing at the NCAA Championships. In 2003, a total of 19 teams that competed in the 2002 NCAA Championships will run in the men's and women's Griak Gold Race.
"This year's Griak field is the strongest we've had," said Golden Gopher men's head coach Steve Plasencia. "And this is saying something considering the talent we've hosted in the past. We have several teams added to this year's field that feel they are NCAA Championships caliber. The men's Gold Race will be quite a battle."
Golden Gopher women's head coach Gary Wilson concurred, "We have 11 teams in the women's Gold Race that ran at nationals last season and even more (16) that were ranked in this season's preseason national poll. The Griak is a challenge we look forward to each year."
Both the men's and women's 2002 Griak Gold Race team champions return in 2003 in hopes of defending their titles. Oregon captured its first team title in the Men's Gold Race, tallying 96 points to edge runner-up Eastern Michigan's total of 105. Michigan State scored 72 points and outdistanced second-place Arizona State (107) by 35 points to collect its first Griak title in the Women's Gold Race.
Brigham Young's Kip Kangogo and Michigan State's Michelle Carson captured medalist honors in 2002 and have the chance to repeat in 2003. Only one person - Providence's Ben Noad (1997 and 1998) - has accomplished the feat of repeating as a Griak champion.
The Golden Gophers head into the Griak looking to improve on their team finishes from a year ago. The Minnesota men's team posted a fifth-place finish, while the Gopher women finished 11th. Heading in the 2003 season, both squads were included in preseason national polls. Minnesota is ranked No. 19 in the MONDO Men's Cross Country National Poll and received votes in the Finish/Lynx Women's Cross Country National Poll.
The Men's Gold Race has 30 teams entered: Arizona, Arizona State, Baylor, Boston College, Brigham Young, Cincinnati, Colorado State, Eastern Michigan, Drake, Furman, Iowa, Iowa State, Loyola (Ill.), Marquette, Miami (Ohio), Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Northern Iowa, Oregon, Portland, Providence, Southern Utah, Texas Tech, Utah State, Wake Forest, Washington State, Weber State and Wisconsin.
The Women's Gold Race has 27 team entries: Arizona, Arizona State, Baylor, Boston College, Colorado State, Columbia, Indiana, Iowa State, Marquette, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Northern Iowa, Northwestern, Penn State, Providence, Southern Utah, Texas Tech, Toledo , Utah State, Wake Forest, Wartburg (Iowa), Washington State and Weber State.
The three Maroon Races will also feature teams aiming at defending their titles. Wisconsin-LaCrosse won the Men's Maroon Race, while Northern Michigan was the Women's Maroon II Race champion and Carleton took the Women's Maroon III crown.
Another feature of the Griak Invitational is high school boys' and girls' invitationals run after the collegiate races take place. Over 100 high school teams from Minnesota and around the nation are expected to compete in the event.
The invitational is named after legendary Golden Gopher cross country and track & field coach Roy Griak. Griak coached at Minnesota for 33 years, and now, in his 40th year associated with Golden Gopher Athletics, serves as the administrative assistant of the men's cross country