Golden Gopher Cross Country This Week:
NCAA Midwest Region Cross County Championships
Host - Missouri State
Saturday, Nov. 14
Men — 12 p.m. (CT)
Women — 1:15 p.m. (CT)
Missouri State Cross Country Course
NCAA Midwest Region Championships
The Minnesota women’s cross country team looks to secure an automatic berth to the NCAA Championships with a top-two finish at the 2009 Midwest Region Championships. Missouri State is the host for the 2009 regional meet, which will be held on Saturday, Nov. 14, at the Missouri State Cross Country Course in Springfield, Mo. The women’s 6-kilometer race is scheduled for 1:15 p.m., immediately following the men’s race.
Minnesota is the Two-Time Defending Midwest Region Champion
Minnesota is the two-time defending team Midwest Region champion. The Golden Gophers saw six runners earn all-region accord in 2007 to win their first team title, then repeated the feat with six all-region performers and the defense of their team crown in 2008.
Experience and Depth on Gophers’ Side
The Golden Gophers have plenty of experience and depth as they chase their 10th NCAA Championships berth in 13 years. Of the nine athletes traveling to the Midwest Region meet (only seven will compete, two are alternates), seven have all-region accolades on their collegiate cross country resumes. Seniors Jamie Cheever, Heather Dorniden, Megan Duwell, Amy Laskowske and Elizabeth Yetzer are two-time All-Midwest Region honorees. Nikki Swenson and Mallory Van Ness captured all-region accord last season.
Duwell has Paced the Gophers the Last Two Seasons
Senior Megan Duwell has paced Minnesota as the Golden Gophers’ number-one runner the past two seasons. Duwell captured her first All-America award last fall and has two top-four (third in 2009 and fourth in 2008) Big Ten finishes on her resume. Duwell placed fourth in the NCAA Midwest Region Championships a year ago.
NCAA Berth at Stake
Thirty-one (31) teams will earn berths to the NCAA Championships, which will be run in Terre Haute, Ind., on Nov. 23. The top two teams from each of the nine regions automatically qualify for the Championships. Another 13 at-large teams will be added to the field and announced on Monday, Nov. 17. In addition, four individual competitors from each region, who are not part of qualifying teams, will also earn their way into the Championships field. These individuals must finish in the top 25 at the regional championship to qualify. Additionally two individuals will be chosen at large by the NCAA committee.
Three Big Ten Teams in Midwest Region Field Nationally Ranked
Three of the four nationally ranked teams in the Midwest Region field are Big Ten Conference schools: Illinois at No. 13, Minnesota at No. 17 and Iowa at No. 30. The only other nationally ranked team is No. 18 Iowa State.
NCAA Berth Looking Good for Gophers
Minnesota’s goal is to earn one of the two automatic qualifying berths from the Midwest Region. If Minnesota does not score an automatic qualifier, the Golden Gophers have built a solid resume of work from the regular season making an at-large bid likely. A Gophers’ NCAA bid in 2009 would be their fifth consecutive and 10th over the last 13 seasons.
Top Minnesota Individual Finishes at the Midwest Region Meet
Minnesota has made its mark with team depth at the NCAA Midwest Region Championships The Gopher have never celebrated an individual medalist. The top finish by a Gopher was a runner-up effort in 2005 by Ladia Albertson-Junkans. Former Gopher All-American Emily Brown was third in 2005 and 2006, while Megan Duwell was fourth in 2008.
The Golden Gopher Lineup
Seven Golden Gophers will compete at the NCAA Midwest Region Championships. A team’s final lineup does not have to be declared until the day of the competition. Following is a list of possible participants and any previous experience at the regional meet.
Jamie Cheever (Sr., Minneapolis, Minn./Southwest) - alternate
2006 - 10th, 21:09.92
2007 - 8th, 20:23
2008 - 26th, 21:42.15
Heather Dorniden (Sr., Inver Grove Heights, Minn./Rosemount)
2006 - 26th, 21:51.77
2007 - 21st, 20:59
2008 - 19th, 21:31.15
Megan Duwell (Sr., West Bend, Wis./West Bend West HS)
2007 - 24th, 21:03
2008 - 4th, 20:45.25
Amy Laskowske (Sr., Palatine, Ill./Palatine HS)
2006 - 20th, 21:41.37
2008 - 21:26.55
Stephanie Price (So., Mankato, Minn./Loyola Catholic HS)
Nikki Swenson (Jr., Dawson, Minn./Dawson-Boyd HS) - alternate
Mallory Van Ness (Sr., Shoreview, Minn./Mounds View HS/Missouri)
2008 - 14th, 21:26.85
Kayla Wagner (Fr., Baldwin, Wis./Baldwin-Woodville HS)
Elizabeth Yetzer (Sr., Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville North HS)
2006 - 18th, 21:36.02
2007 - 13th, 20:46
Gophers, Duwell Third at Big Ten Championships
Minnesota had won the previous two Big Ten Cross Country Championships by single digits. This season, the result was once again decided by single digits with a margin of just nine points separating the top three teams. The Golden Gophers were on the short end this time around placing third.
Penn State captured its first Big Ten cross country title with 71 points, hosting the Championships on their home course. Senior Bridget Franek won the individual title with a time of 20:03. Illinois finished second with 77 points, followed by Minnesota with 80.
The Gophers were led by senior Megan Duwell, who placed third in a personal-best time of 20 minutes, 23 seconds to match the third-fastest (Jamie Cheever, 2007) 6-kilometer time in school history. Duwell earns her second All-Big Ten First Team award.
True freshman Kayla Wagner continues to impress, placing 14th overall in 21:06 and earning All-Big Ten Second Team honors.
Completing the Gophers’ scoring was Stephanie Price, Heather Dorniden and Elizabeth Yetzer. Price, a sophomore, finished 18th in the Big Ten Cross Country Championships crossing the finish line in a time of 21:19. Dorniden was 20th in a time of 21:21, while Yetzer finished 25th in 21:29. Other Gophers competing were Mallory Van Ness, who placed 29th in 21:31; and Amy Laskowske, who placed 34th in 21:38.
Duwell Finishes Third in Pre-NCAA White Race
Minnesota senior Megan Duwell placed third in the Pre-NCAA White Race to pace the No. 8 Golden Gophers to an eighth-place finish in Terre Haute, Ind., on Oct. 17. The Pre-NCAA Meet is held on the LaVern Gibson Championship Course, the site of the NCAA Cross Country Championships each fall.
Duwell covered the 6-kilometer course in a time of 20:31.5, a solid time considering soft track conditions. Duwell finished 4.2 seconds after Illinois’ Angela Bizarri, who won the race in a time of 20:27.8. Washington’s Kendra Schaf was second in 20:29.0.
Minnesota tallied a team score of 214 points. Defending national champion Washington collected three top-five finishes to easily win the team title with 59 points. Florida was the team runner-up with 89, followed by Princeton (126), Syracuse (191) and Illinois (206). Colorado won the Blue Race team crown with 94 points.
“I was pleased with the way our team was able to focus through adversity on this whole road trip,” said Golden Gopher head coach Gary Wilson. “I think it’s going to one of those type of seasons where we are going to have to work very hard for everything we get. From a race standpoint, we got out a little too slow as a team. We continued to battle, but against this good of competition, any mistakes are magnified.”
The Gophers travel posed a challenge. Delays and finally a rearranged flight schedule got the squad to Terre Haute but the stage was already set. It was past midnight before the team settled into their hotel rooms for the night.
Wilson recognized the efforts of the two youngest Gophers on the trip, sophomore Stephanie Price and freshman Kayla Wagner. “These two ran very well today,” he said. “We needed them to step up and they have.”
Price notched her highest team finish of her Gopher career running to the team’s No. 2 spot. She placed 43rd overall in a time of 21:32.3. Wagner was the Gophers’ fourth finisher, 57th overall, in 21:41.7.
The other scorers for the Gophers were Elizabeth Yetzer, who finished 53rd in a time of 21:40.2 and Nikki Swenson, who placed 58th in 21:42.2. Closing out the Gophers competing were Heather Dorniden in 62nd in 21:43.8 and Amy Laskowske in 80th in 21:51.1.
The Pre-NCAA event holds an open race in addition to the White and Blue Races. Gopher senior Mallory Van Ness captured the open race title with a time of 21:51.2.
“Seeing Mallory win the race was pretty cool,” added Wilson. “We have great depth; we were able to have a solid finish in the White Race, and also have four runners finish in the top 13 of the open race.”
Duwell Wins Griak Title, Honored by Big Ten
Minnesota senior Megan Duwell captured her second Big Ten Runner of the Week accolade of the season as the Conference office recognized her accomplishment of winning the individual title at the Roy Griak Invitational on Sept. 26. A West Bend, Wis., native, Duwell is the first Golden Gopher to capture two Big Ten Runner of the Week awards in the same season. Duwell was also honored by the Big Ten after winning the Oz Memorial Run title earlier this month.
Duwell WIns Griak Title, Gophers Second as a Team
Golden Gopher senior All-American Megan Duwell wrote her name in the Griak Invitational record books, winning the Jack Johnson Women’s Gold Race title in a time of 21 minutes, 0.37 seconds. Duwell is the second Minnesota women’s runner to take Griak gold, joining Rasa (nee Michnoivaite) Troup who won the title in 1998.
Duwell broke free from the pack before the race’s 2-kilometer mark and went on to win by over 12 seconds over runner-up Lisa Koll (Iowa State). Duwell’s time is the fourth-best time in Minnesota history by a Gopher on their home 6-kilometer course at the Les Bolstad Golf Course in Falcon Heights.
Minnesota’s streak of Griak titles was ended at two by Iowa State, who landed five runners in the top 10 to tally 31 points and take home their first Griak crown. The Gophers finished second with 48 points, followed by Michigan State in third with 75 points.
The Gophers scored all five runners in the top 20. Nikki Swenson was the Gophers’ number-two runner finishing in eighth place in a time of 21:56.87. Elizabeth Yetzer finished 11th in 22:01.57 and started a string of five consecutive Minnesota finishes. Amy Laskowske was 12th in 22:03.27, followed by Kayla Wagner (13th, 22:07.32), Heather Dorniden (14th, 22:16.82) and Mallory Van Ness (15th, 22:20.42).
Duwell WIns Griak Title, Gophers Second as a Team
Minnesota senior Megan Duwell was named the Co-Big Ten Cross Country Runner of the Week after defending her individual title in the Oz Memorial Run on Sept. 11. Duwell ran an impressive 21 minutes 13.24 seconds, beating the 6-kilometer race’s second place finisher by 53 seconds and leading her teammates to a first-place team finish. This was Duwell’s first weekly Big Ten honor of her Gopher career.
Duwell’s award is the first time a Gopher has been Runner of the Week since 2005. Minnesota’s Emily Brown received the honor in September, 2005, and her team went on to finish ninth at the NCAA Championships. In the time between Brown and Duwell’s awards Minnesota has won two Big Ten Championships and has placed 12th or higher at the NCAA Championships in three appearances.
“I was surprised to find out that we had not won a Big Ten weekly award for such a long time, considering the caliber of the teams we’ve had here in recent years. Megan has been training very hard and is very deserving of this award,” said head coach Gary Wilson.
Golden Gopher Coaching Staff
Gary Wilson, the dean of the Big Ten women’s cross country coaches, is in his 25th season heading the Minnesota program. He is assisted by volunteer assistant head coach, Sarah Hesser, who is in her fifth season on the coaching staff after competing for the Golden Gophers.