Ladia Albertson-Junkans and Emily Brown repeated as All-American in leading Minnesota to an 11th-place finish in the NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., on Monday. The Golden Gophers scored 335 points, 35 points out of sixth place. Stanford defended its national title scoring 195 points, the highest team total to win an NCAA crown.
The Gophers were hoping to better their ninth-place showing from 2005, but was dealt a bit of misfortune when redshirt freshman Jamie Cheever came down with flu-like symptoms over the weekend. Cheever had been running consistently in Minnesota’s number-three spot but dropped down to finish 150th overall.
“I guess it says something about what level our program is at when I’m a bit disappointed by finishing 11th in the nation,” said veteran Golden Gopher head coach Gary Wilson. “Jamie ran a courageous race and gave us all she had. It’s just one of those things. Overall this team ran with unbelievable heart and did just a wonderful job. I’m very proud of them and the effort they put forth all season long.”
Albertson-Junkans posted a 19th-place finish overall, covering the 6-kilometer LaVern Gibson Championship Course in a time of 21 minutes, 12.9 seconds. The finish marks the third-highest individual placing by a Minnesota runner at the national championship meet. It was also the first time this season that Albertson-Junkans ran to the number-one spot in the Gopher lineup.
“What can you say about Ladia,” said Wilson. “She a gamer. She ran a great race and was mentally focused despite running with a bit of a heavy heart due to the loss of her stepfather recently. Ladia’s one tough hombre.”
Brown ironically ended her Golden Gopher cross country career with her second consecutive 29th-place NCAA finish. The senior posted a time of 21:17.6. Albertson-Junkans and Brown are the first two-time cross country All-Americans in Golden Gopher history.
The Gophers’ 11th-place showing could serve as a springboard for upcoming seasons as the remainder of the Minnesota lineup consisted of two true freshmen, two redshirt freshmen and a sophomore. Freshman Elizabeth Yetzer finished 108th in a time of 22:11.8 in her first NCAA experience. Yetzer was followed by sophomore Gabriele Anderson in 127th place (22:21.1) and Cheever in 150th place (22:31.4) to complete Minnesota’s scoring five.
Freshman Amy Laskowske was the Gophers’ number-six finisher, placing 157th overall, in a time of 22:33.4. Redshirt freshman Heather Dorniden finished n 185th-place in a time of 22:50.6.
The Big Ten Conference played a big role in the NCAA Championships with six teams placing in the top 17, five in the top 12. Michigan was the top finisher, placing third with 233 points, followed by Wisconsin, who easily ran its best race of the season, in placing fourth with 262 points. Illinois raced with an eighth-place showing with 304 points, then Minnesota in 11th with 335 and Michigan State in 12th with 358. Iowa added a 17th-place finish with 409 points.
Texas Tech sophomore Sally Kipyego won the individual title in a time of 20:11.1, over 16 seconds faster than runner-up Jenny Barringer (20:37.9), a sophomore from Colorado. Texas Tech finished sixth in the team standings with 300 points.
An interesting sidebar to the success of the Gopher women’s cross country team on the course is that of their success in the classroom. The student-athletes who represented Minnesota at the 2006 NCAA Cross Country Championships own a combined 3.67 grade point average.