Sept. 24, 2012
The Golden Gopher cross country program is set to host the 27th annual Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 29 at Les Bolstad Golf Course in Falcon Heights. The renowned Griak Invitational is perennially one of the largest meets in the country. The meet is comprised of six collegiate races and four high school races. The day will kick off with the national anthem at 8:55 a.m.
The Gopher men will race in the Merrill Fischbein Gold (Division I) Competition at 12:20 p.m. The men’s team is still looking to capture the team title at its own prestigious event, and 2012 may be the Gophers’ year as six of the top 11 individual returners from 2011 will run for the Maroon and Gold.
Pieter Gagnon is second only to Regina’s Kelly Wiebe among returners after finishing 19th last year with a time of 24:34.9. The Gophers will also bring back top-50 finishers in Andrew Larsen, who finished 27th last year in 24:45.8, and Bob Nicolls, who crossed the finish line at 25:02.4 for 49th place.
Minnesota is also the top returning team from a year ago, finishing third with 153 points behind North Carolina State (96 points) and Portland (114 points). The Gophers’ third-place finish in 2011 was the team’s highest placement in the event since earning runner-up honors in 2006.
The Gophers entered the 2012 season ranked No. 18 in the U.S. Track & Field/Cross Country Coaches
(USTFCCCA) poll and are currently ranked No. 17 after finishing second behind No. 3 BYU at the Autumn Classic in Provo, Utah earlier this month.
The Gopher women will follow later in the afternoon with the Jack Johnson Gold (Division I) Competition at 1:10 p.m. Coming in fifth last year, they are the only top-five team besides champion Iowa State back in this year’s Griak. They have big shoes to fill after the graduation of 2010 All-American Stephanie Price, who finished fifth at last year’s Griak, but Minnesota did return a group of talented runners from the 2011 season. They have qualified for the NCAA Championships in seven straight years, including a 27th-place finish in 2011, and will look to continue that streak.
Junior Laura Docherty and sophomore Molly Kayfes traded first and second-place finishes in Minnesota’s first two races this fall, with Docherty winning the Oz Memorial Run and Kayfes winning the SDSU Classic. The duo—along with returners Ashlie Decker, Maggie Bollig, Katie Moraczewski, and Cassy Opitz—competed at last year’s NCAA Championships. Minnesota returns another regional competitor in Rachel Drake. A handful of other Gophers will continue to contend for the team’s top spots as the season progresses.
Minnesota will look to perform well on its home turf this Saturday at the Griak. Decker is the Gophers’ top returning finisher, having crossed the line 31st in 2011. She and her teammates have gained meaningful experience in Big Ten and NCAA competition since then. That experience will help them contend for higher finishes at the 2012 Griak.
The meet is named for legendary Gopher coach Roy Griak, who retired from coaching in 1996 after 33 years. Griak coached three national champions among a total of 47 cross country and track All-Americans during his tenure. He still serves as administrative assistant to the program, and still attends the meet named for him.