While many people’s thoughts turn to our undefeated football team when they think of Gopher sports, the men’s and women’s cross country teams remain an unsung gem at the University of Minnesota. Although the University of Minnesota board of trustees voted 7-5 to scrap three men’s athletic programs, including men’s indoor track and field, a sport in which many male cross-country athletes also compete country, the men’s and women’s cross country teams entered the 2022 season with a strong end to the 2021 season.
After a successful 2021 season, the program is also welcoming many new faces, including a new coach, Sarah Hopkins with the help of Brad Wick. Sarah Hopkins brings fresh perspective and coaching advice to the team, and continues to uphold the high standards the teams set for themselves each year.
“The goal is always what it is in Minnesota, which is to make the national championships,” the head coach said. Sarah Hopkins said. “It’s not going to be an easy task, it never is. There will always be surprises, there will always be people coming out of the woodwork that you don’t necessarily expect, but have a great summer [of training] and really come to help.
Sarah Hopkins’ quote highlights how remarkable these cross country teams are, the women’s team has a five-season streak of qualifying for NCAA championships and the men’s cross country team has set a new standard competing in the NCAA championships for the first time since 2015 last season.
The Golden Gophers have a lot of amazing new talent coming for the 2022 season. The women’s team added 6 new freshmen to the mix and the men’s cross country team welcomes 10 new runners, 3 of whom are transfers with college racing experience.
Among these talented new runners, the women’s team welcomes several state champions. Ali Weimer’s joins the team as the 2021 high school cross country champion. Another addition to the roster is Zoie Dundon, a consecutive 800m track and field state champion in Minnesota. Izzy Roemer won the Minnesota State Athletics title in the 1600 m and finished second in the state with the 3200 m. The team also welcomes Anna Lien, a 1600m state champion from Fargo North High School.
“A lot of our hard-hitting young student-athletes on this team come from the Midwest, Minnesota,” Hopkins said. “And so, if you’re a track and cross-country fan in this state, you’ll recognize the names from high school and they’re now still around and are going to be that next generation Gopher Cross Country.”
Additionally, the Men’s Cross Country Team features two Gatorade Cross Country Athletes of the Year: Shane Griepentrog of Wisconsin and Tanner Klumph of Montana. The huge amount of returning talent on the men’s team will allow them to redshirt many of their freshmen and help them further develop their racing abilities for future seasons.
“We’re certainly excited about our freshmen who are redshirts,” Hopkins explained. “Being able to keep an eye on them even if they’re not in uniform and see how they’ve progressed through the fall and spring will be fun to watch. Especially on the guys side next year, we are really confident that there will be a big step forward next year. So watch what’s happening in the unattached world to see what it’ll be like when they all get together in uniform next year.
Although the USTFCCCA’s original ranking placed Gopher’s women’s cross country team at 29 in the nation, the women’s team sits at number 5 in the Midwest region. Votes for the men’s cross country team placed them at 34 nationwide. In the Midwest region, the men’s cross country team is currently ranked number 4. Based on previous seasons, those rankings will only get better from here.