Top 3 Teams Return to Griak Gold Race
Sept. 27, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS – The 2013 edition of the Roy Griak Invitational Jack Johnson Women’s Gold Race features 26 teams, including some of the nation’s top Division I cross country runners. The field includes eight teams that competed in the 2012 NCAA Championship, seven teams from last year’s Griak Invitational and three 2012 conference championship teams. Nearly 350 runners will take part in the 6-kilometer race.
The top three teams from last year’s Gold Race return as Iowa State looks to defend its team championship, along with second-place Weber State and the third-place Golden Gophers.
While the Cyclones look for a second-straight team title, a new individual champion will be crowned this year as 2012 winner Betsy Saina of Iowa State concluded her career last season. Saina went on to capture the individual NCAA national title after winning the Griak title in 20:51. The Cyclones also graduated Meaghan Nelson, who took second overall in last year’s Gold Race. Iowa State returns eight runners who competed on last year’s Griak team, including scoring runners Samantha Bluske (ninth), Katy Moen (15th place) and Bethany Olson (49th).
Weber State came in second at last year’s Griak Invitational but will run nearly an entirely new squad at this year’s competition. Senior Amber Henry and sophomore Jamie Stokes are the lone returners as Henry came in third at the 2012 Griak and helped the Wildcats to a 17th-place showing at the national meet with a 32nd-place finish. Junior Amanda Ward and five freshmen complete the Wildcats’ roster for this year’s Gold Race.
Host Minnesota rounds out the top three returning teams from last season, and the Golden Gophers return all seven scoring runners from their 2012 Griak and NCAA squads. Minnesota is led by senior Laura Docherty, who took fourth overall at last year’s Griak Invitational, and junior Molly Kayfes, who led Minnesota with a 57th-place finish at the NCAA championship. The duo traded first and second-place finishes at the Gophers’ first two outings this season, including the Oz Memorial Run which saw the Gophers earn 22 of the top 25 places.
Seniors Maggie Bollig, Kelli Budd, Rachel Drake and Katie Moraczewski also return for the Gophers, who finished 22nd at the 2012 NCAA Championship and have qualified for the national meet in eight-straight seasons. Fellow senior Ashlie Decker also returns from last year’s Griak team but will run unattached this year. The strong core of returners is joined by a crop of talented young runners in sophomores Kate Bucknam, Becca Dyson and Kaila Urick. Fellow sophomore Liz Berkholtz is another young Gopher to watch as she emerged as one of Minnesota’s top runners last year and gained NCAA experience as a freshman.
Only three of the top 10 individual finishers from last year’s Griak return to the field this season – Weber State’s Henry (third), Minnesota’s Docherty (fourth) and Iowa State’s Bluske (ninth).
Along with 2012 NCAA participants Iowa State (11th), Weber State (17th) and Minnesota (22nd), the Griak Invitational features five other national competitors led by last year’s sixth-place finisher Arizona. The Wildcats will run five athletes who competed at the 2012 national meet, led by 19th-place finisher Elvin Kibet. Kibet and Amanda Russell return for their senior seasons, joining juniors Stephanie Bulder, Nicci Corbin and Clea Formax to make up an experienced Wildcat roster.
Michigan State (16th), Vanderbilt (27th), Butler (29th) and Georgia (30th) also raced at last year’s national meet. Butler (Atlantic 10), Iowa State (Big 12) and Weber State (Big Sky) won their respective conference titles last season as well.
Ten of the 26 teams in this year’s Griak field have received attention in the USTFCCCA Division I national coaches poll, including Minnesota, Arizona, Butler, Georgia, Iowa State, Michigan State, North Carolina State, Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Weber State.
NCAA Division II teams Adams State and defending national champion Grand Valley State will also run in the Gold Race. Adams State won the 2012 Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and came in third at the 2012 Division II national meet. The Lakers have won two of the last three national titles along with capturing the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title last season. Neither team ran at the Griak Invitational last season.
In addition to last year’s top three Griak team finishers, Central Michigan (13th), South Dakota State (15th), Drake (16th) and South Dakota (17th) also return to Les Bolstad Course for the 28th annual Griak Invitational.
The 28th annual Roy Griak Invitational gets underway at 9 a.m. on Saturday at Les Bolstad Golf Course in Falcon Heights, Minn. The meet includes six collegiate races and four high school races, and the Jack Johnson Gold Race is at 1:10 p.m.