A Griak race to remember

Pipers honor the late Roy Griak at invitational in his name.


Cole Mayer

Senior Nathan Rock running the 8k before finishing fourth at 2015 Roy Griak Invitational.

Paul Patane, Sports Editor

Senior Cross Country runner Nathan Rock led all Pipers with an impressive fourth place finish at the annual Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday, Sep. 26, the first Griak race since the legendary Gopher coach passed away earlier this summer.

In a field of more than 150 NCAA Division III men, Rock’s 27:12.15 run propelled the men’s Hamline Cross Country team to a sixth place finish. Only one MIAC runner, senior Matt Berens from Bethel, ran a faster time than Rock from within the conference. Other than Rock, the only Piper to finish in the men’s top 20 field was junior James Logan with a time of 28:12.9, which was good enough to finish 17th. Senior Ronnie Stimson also had a solid run placing 28th.

Nathan Rock as he works his way through a field of more than 150 runners at 2015 Roy Griak Invite.
Cole Mayer
Nathan Rock as he works his way through a field of more than 150 runners at 2015 Roy Griak Invite.

For Hamline’s women’s team, no Piper finished in the top ten, but the team had a solid eighth place finish overall. It was a respectable day for a group featuring several new faces.

The top finisher for the women was sophomore Mariah Gallagher, who finished the 6k in 43rd place with a time of 25:55.5. Behind Gallagher were first-year Madeline Dopp in 45th place, and senior Brenna Kennedy and first-year Meg Griffin, who finished 57th and 58th, respectively.

Heading into the Griak Invite, Paul Schmaedeke, head coach for both the men’s and women’s programs and a Hamline fixture for more than 30 years is a stable force who knows how to get his athletes to compete at a high level. However, he was pleased to get some help from an assistant coach who is a familiar face on campus.

“We were fortunate enough to get Devin [Monson] to come back from Texas and join us. I think that’s probably the biggest change this year,” Schmaedeke said.

Assistant Coach Monson is a graduate of Hamline and three time All-American who competed in both Track & Field and Cross Country for the Pipers. He still holds multiple university records, including ones for 5,000 and 10,000 meters. Last year, Monson ran the 10,000 Meters at the USA Track & Field Championships and finished 12th, showing he can still compete at a high level even though he’s moved into more of a coaching capacity since graduating.

The Griak Invite is always a popular race for universities based in and around the Twin Cities in particular.

“It’s a ten minute drive and our fans can get there easily. They do a good job of treating the athletes well,” Schmaedeke said.

Monson elaborated on the the physical challenges of the course itself.

“It’s one of the biggest meets we’ll run this year and also probably the most challenging course we’ll do,” Monson said.

Rock went into the Griak Invite this year reflecting on the passing of Griak in addition to now having run the course seven times in high school and college combined.

“Roy Griak was kind of a legendary coach at the University of Minnesota,” Rock said. “So this year is going to be a little special.”

Schmaedeke noted the difference in race length at the Griak Invite as the Piper men and women had only competed in shorter distances races up to this point in 2015.

“Our general race strategy is going to be the same,” Schmaedeke said. “It’s probably a bigger deal for first-years. They’ve competed at 5k in high school and then they go to an 8k race in college. There’s an adjustment to that. There’s an adjustment period to figure out how to handle out that 8k.”

Hamline’s Cross Country teams are unique in that they share a coaching staff and do a lot of activities together. At many other universities, the teams are kept entirely separate.

“We meet together every day. They [the men and women] follow a similar training plan. There’s adjustments made for the genders. The total work volume is a little greater for the men than the women,” Schmaedeke said.

Monson emphasized how everyone works as a team.

“We wouldn’t really consider them two separate entities. They’re there to support each other,” Monson said. “Our whole coaching staff works together.”

Rock noted the small size of the Cross Country teams helps keep everyone close.

“We’re a smaller team on campus,” Rock said. “Everyone knows each other very well.”

Now that she’s a senior, Kennedy’s working to take the next step as she looks to improve and be a leader for her younger teammates.

Senior Brenna Kennedy running the 6k at 2015 Roy Griak Invitational.
Cole Mayer
Senior Brenna Kennedy running the 6k at 2015 Roy Griak Invitational.

“Everybody has a role that they play in the team dynamic,” Kennedy said. “We all help each other out.”

Beyond team dynamics, Kennedy tries to be consistent.

“Our whole team has the motto start smart, finish strong. So that’s what I try to do during races and stuff and it works really well for me so I’ve stuck with that,” Kennedy said.

Hamline’s Cross Country teams will compete next at the St. Catherine Invitational in St. Paul on Saturday, Oct. 10. Both the men and women teams will run a 4k race.