The Gustavus men’s cross country team looks to continue its slow rise toward the top of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. After posting three consecutive ninth place finishes in the MIAC Cross Country Championships from 2000-02, the Gusties came through with an eighth place finish in 2003 and a seventh place finish last season.
The goal for the Gusties this season will be to improve the team’s standing at the conference meet. “We want to be at least top six,” noted Head Coach Jed Friedrich. “St. Olaf and Carleton are traditionally very strong, Saint John’s returns a lot of runners from last year, and St. Thomas is usually up there.” Behind those four schools, however, Friedrich sees a wide-open race.
Four of seven runners return from the group that posted a 14th place finish at the NCAA Central Region meet in 2004. Leading the Gusties will be Alex Zupan (Junior, Monona, Wisc.), Nathan Barten (Senior, Delano, Minn.), Andy Rishavy (Senior, Alexandria, Minn.) and Dan Westlund (Senior, Northfield, Minn.). Zupan picked up all-conference honors with his 11th place finish in last year’s MIAC meet and, according to Friedrich, logged a lot of practice miles over the summer. For Barten and Westlund, the key to success in 2005 will be their ability to manage minor injuries sustained during training this past summer.
Friedrich will look to a number of first-year and sophomore runners to fill the spots vacated by the graduation of Brent Magnusson, James Sorenson and Tom Westlund. Sorenson recorded the highest Gustie finish in the 2004 Central Region Meet, with a 45th place time.
“We have a pretty solid freshman,” said Friedrich, “and we need a few guys to make the jump [into a varsity role].” Those first-year runners expected to have a chance to crack the top five are Jeff Pedersen (Plymouth, Minn.), Ryan Brownell (Hibbing, Minn.), and John Leaf (Center City, Minn.).
Gustavus reported for pre-season training on August 24 and will open the season September 3 against former Gustie harriers at the Alumni Meet in St. Peter. The squad’s first test against outside competition will be at the Saint John’s Invitational on September 10 in Collegeville, Minn.
2005 MIAC Men’s Cross Country Preview