The Minnesota women’s cross country captured the team title, and an automatic berth to the national meet, at the NCAA Midwest Region Championships in Springfield, Mo., on Saturday. The Golden Gophers landed all seven runners in the top 25 to earn all-region honors.
“We ran like a team on a mission,” said Golden Gopher head coach Gary Wilson. “After the Big Ten meet we felt we had a little something to prove today. This was by far our best team race of the season.”
Senior Megan Duwell paced the Gophers’ effort covering the 5-kilometer Missouri State course in a school-record time of 20 minutes, 14.5 seconds and capturing runner-up honors. Duwell’s time was almost five seconds faster than the previous Minnesota record mark of 20:19.3 set by Ladia Albertson-Junkans at the NCAA Championships in 2005.
Duwell battled Illinois’ Angela Bizzarri at the front of the pack for most of the race. Bizzarri, who finished second to Duwell’s third at the Big Ten Championships, edged ahead in the race’s final 500 meters to win in 20:07.5. Illinois finished second in the Midwest Region to earn the region’s other NCAA automatic qualifier.
The Gophers captured their third consecutive Midwest Region title compiling 60 team points. For the first time in Minnesota history, every Gopher competitor earned all-region accord.
Senior Amy Laskowske ran her finest race of the season finishing as the Gophers’ number-two runner and placing ninth overall. Laskowske was clocked in a career-best time of 21:04.5.
“Amy ran great today,” said Wilson. “She rebounded very well from a race (the Big Ten meet) where she was our ninth finisher.”
Senior Heather Dorniden posted her highest finish at a regional meet, placing 14th in a time of 21:15.4.
The three non-seniors of the Gopher lineup teamed to grab consecutive finishes at 19th, 20th and 21st. Sophomore Stephanie Price led the trio with a time of 21:26.9, followed by freshman Kayla Wagner at 21:28.5 and Nikki Swenson at 21:32.3.
Completing the Gophers’ lineup was senior Elizabeth Yetzer, who finished 25th in a time of 21:34.7. All four Gopher seniors – Duwell, Laskowske, Dorniden and Yetzer – are now three-time career all-region honorees.
Minnesota is one of 18 teams to earn automatic berths in the NCAA Cross Country Championships, which will be run on Monday, Nov. 24, in Terre Haute, Ind., The remainder the field for the national meet will be announced on Monday. The Gophers will make their fifth consecutive trip to the NCAA Championships and their 10th over the last 13 years.