Men’s cross country wins Griak Invitational

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The UW-Eau Claire men’s cross country team made history this weekend at the Roy Griak Cross Country Invitational in Minneapolis, hosted by the University of Minnesota.

The Blugolds took the tournament for the first time in school history.

The Blugolds ended up with a total of 69 points, beating second-place UW-Oshkosh and third-place Bates College (Maine).

Sophomore Ryan Mugan finished sixth out of 296 runners with a time of 26:09. Sophomore Christian Leitner and senior Matt Scott finished within 11 seconds of Mugan, placing 13th and 15th overall with times of 26:18 and 26:20, respectively.

Leitner said the team changed the way they ran as the race went on, with long gradual hills throughout the course and rainy weather impacting the race.

“We went out really conservative and the guys did a really good job of putting themselves in good position and we did a really good job of working with each other,” Leitner said.

Only four meets into the season, head coach Dan Schwamberger said he likes what he’s seeing.

“I was pleased,” Schwamberger said. “They definitely had a really good pack. That was huge. If they can keep running like that, I think it will be fun to see what they can do at the end of the season.”

While winning the Griak Invitational was a boost to the team, Leitner said they aren’t taking anything for granted.

“We’re definitely feeling confident after Griak and we’re pretty pumped up after that,” Leitner said. “But at the same time, we have a lot of work to do and there’s still a lot of season left. We have a lot of high goals and expectations.”

On the women’s side, Eau Claire finished eighth overall with 272 points. Wartburg College (Iowa) won the meet with 63 points.

Senior Alana Jenkins finished in 30th place with a time of 24:13. Senior Nikki Rendler followed in 35th place with a time of 24:20 and sophomore Katryna Williams rounded out the Blugolds in the top 50 runners with a time of 24:26.

Williams said the team is focused on running together and it helps when race time comes around.

“It helps to have people to run with,” Williams said. “Having teammates to work with helps a lot rather than just being out there by yourself and trying to convince yourself to do it.”

 The teams also competed in the St. Mary’s Invitational inWinona, Minn., Friday night. The women’s team won the invite out of the five teams entered, and the men placed second.

Freshman Melody Baker was the individual champion of the women’s race, ending with a time of 24:44. On the men’s side, sophomore Steven Schimmel finished 4th for the Blugolds with a time of 27:49.

The WIAC meet is a month away, but Schwamberger said both teams will start to increase their training for it.

“Even though we’re halfway through meets, we still have basically all of October and most of November,” Schwamberger said. “We kind of start shifting gears here as far as workouts go. Workouts in September were more general in nature and now we’ll start getting a little bit more specific in the upcoming weeks.”

The Blugolds compete Friday on their home course at the Whitetail Golf Course in nearby Colfax. Leitner said the other entries at the meet will be another good test for the team.

“It’s going to be just as competitive as Griak, if not more,” Leitner said. “There will be a lot of competitive schools and it will be nice to see how we stack up against them head to head.”

The women’s race starts at 4 p.m. and the men follow at 5 p.m.