ISU women’s cross-country focuses on youth at Roy Griak Invitational


Photo: Jonathan Krueger/Iowa State Daily

Sophomore Margaret Gannon races along with the pack in the women’s distance medley at the Drake Relays on April 27, 2013, at Drake Stadium. Gannon took the lead in her leg of the race, but the team fell behind in the final leg to Minnesota and ended with a time of 11:12.92 for third place.

Ryan Young

The Roy Griak Invitational, hosted by Minnesota, is one of the largest collegiate cross-country meets in the country. The Griak will play host to 26 teams on Saturday, and the No. 26 ISU women’s cross-country team is one of them.

“This is really a good opportunity for us to get our feet wet,” said team captain Maggie Gannon. “We’ve kind of been holding out, so now we can really see where we’re at and where we need to go from here.”

This year marks the 28th running of the Griak. The meet was named after former Minnesota coach Roy Griak, who coached cross-country and track and field for 33 years, winning a number of Big Ten championships.

Iowa State, which is coming off a second-place finish at the Black and Gold Invite, has yet to get all of its top runners on the course this season.

“This is a really good opportunity for me to really see how good these girls are,” said ISU coach Andrea Grove-McDonough said. “We have kind of been in a bubble recently, with some of these girls having not run in a race yet, so I’ll be able to see how they stack up with the other top teams.

On Saturday, the team will be without senior captain Sam Bluske, who injured her foot last week in practice. While she is still unsure of the injury’s extent, Bluske is remaining positive.

“I’m optimistic. I am bracing for the worst, but I’m trying to remain positive about it,” Bluske said. “But no matter what happens, I’m still going to support my team and help out in every way that I can.”

The Cyclones will field a team of 11 runners Saturday, including Ejiro Okoro and Gannon, who finished fifth and sixth, respectively, at the Black and Gold Invite. This meet also marks the first for freshman Bethanie Brown, as well as four other underclassmen.

With a younger team than usual this year, Bluske noted it is more important than ever for the younger runners to step up.

“What the young girls need to realize is that our top four runners are really strong, but we need a good fifth runner,” Bluske said. “This is a good chance for them to do that. Our fifth through eighth girls need to step up.”

While Grove-McDonough has high hopes for the meet, her main focus remains on the younger runners.

“I really want the younger runners to get used to the process,” Grove-McDonough said. “Most of these girls have never seen a meet this big, or with this amount of quality competition before. It will be a big eye-opener for them, but I know that they will handle it well.”

The Cyclones will hit the Les Bolstad Golf Course at 1 p.m. Saturday.