This week on the trails, the Gophers women’s cross country team raced at the Coast-to-Coast Battle in Beantown meet in Boston. Twelve of the Gophers’ top runners were at the start line just before 3 p.m. on Friday to face some of the best teams in the country. The non-travel squad remained in Minnesota to race locally at the St. Olaf Invite in Northfield, Minnesota on Saturday. Before the doubleheader, head coach Sarah Hopkins spoke about her expectations for race day.
“Everybody tries to be third on any given day, and if we do that we’ll be in a really good spot. That’s competing for third, and not for seventh or eighth on the team,” she said.
At meets early in the season, the Gophers are able to run as many athletes as they choose. However, in the championship meets at the end of the season, the Gophers will be limited to racing seven athletes. Friday served as an opportunity for the team to break out more runners and earn valuable points in the national race as they remain ranked the No. 24 team in the country.
“The way our sport works, you can get national qualifying points, our hope is that if we can beat a few of those national level teams [in Boston] that that will help us come the end of the season to achieve the goal of being in the national meet,” Hopkins said. “We want to go in there and test where we are, but we also want to come away with some points for the end of the season.”
This year, the team is headed by junior twin sisters Megan and Bethany Hasz. Behind them, the race is anyone’s for the taking.
Bethany Hasz led the Gophers with a second place overall finish, crossing the finish line in 17:17. Megan Hasz was not far behind her with a fifth place finish in 17:21. Behind the twins, coach Hopkins’ expectations were met as six Minnesota runners finished 13 seconds apart, with times between 18:04 and 18:17.
At the head of this pack was senior Patty O’Brien.
“It felt like a great race,” O’Brien said. “I think all of our girls really attacked it together, so we were all close when we were coming into the finishing chute.”
Next up, the women’s team will return home to race in the 33rd annual Roy Griak Invitational — one of the largest meets in the country held at Les Bolstad Golf Course in Falcon Heights, Minnesota.
Meanwhile, the men’s cross country team had a week without competition, but not without cause for celebration.
Redshirt sophomore Alec Basten received recognition for his performance at the Greeno/Dirksen Invitational in Nebraska. Basten was named the Big Ten men’s athlete of the week Wednesday for his first-place individual finish at his last meet.
At the meet, Basten set a new personal 8K record in a time of 24:17.5 to lead the way for the Gophers on a course the team will run again later this season at the 2018 Big Ten Championships meet.