Nov. 8, 2012
The Golden Gopher cross country team is seeking its eighth consecutive bid to the NCAA Championships. This weekend, Minnesota will bring the same 10 runners who traveled to the Big Ten Championships, and seven will compete.
The top two teams from each of the nine regional races will automatically advance to the national meet. Thirteen additional teams will receive at large bids based on a points system.
"If we could make it in the top two, we'll be able to breathe easier," assistant coach Sarah Hesser said. "We don't want to leave it up to chance."
The Gophers finished third last season and received an at-large bid to the NCAA Championships. The two teams who finished ahead of them last year, Iowa State and Oklahoma State, again enter this year's regional ranked ahead of Minnesota. The No. 2 Cyclones have beaten the No. 28 Gophers twice this season (at the Griak and Wisconsin adidas Invitationals), but Minnesota has yet to face No. 21 Oklahoma State in head-to-head competition this fall.
"Oklahoma State has two really strong runners up front," Hesser said. "We need to try to capitalize on the gap between their second and third runners. We should have three or four runners who can compete to be in the top 25."
Minnesota is coming off of a fourth-place finish at the Big Ten Championships. Hesser said the team watched the race replay on TV to analyze performances.
"Every person knows they can run a little bit better," she said.
Last year's top runner, Stephanie Price, graduated, but six of Minnesota's 10 traveling runners have NCAA Regional or Championships experience. They are a part of the seven-year Championships streak the Gophers are looking to extend this season.
"This group has been there and understands what it takes," Hesser said. "That's a benefit. But it also adds pressure. Hopefully that's good pressure. Nobody wants to be the group that breaks the streak. It's not easy to make it to the national meet. You have to back it up every year."
*Read a Q&A with the six juniors on the travel squad here.
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