One Gopher great returns, one calls it quits
It has been a newsy couple of days for the Minnesota Gophers track and cross country teams. First the positive: Alexandria, MN native and multiple-Big Ten Champion Bethany Hasz has decided to return to the U for her 5th year! The super senior is coming off of a season where she was a three-time Big Ten Champion in the individual cross-country meet, the indoor 3,000-meters and the outdoor 10,000 meters. Hasz would then finish as the NCAA runner up in the indoor 5,000 meters, and in third place in the outdoor 5,000 meters. She also helped the Gopher women’s cross country team to a 5th place finish at the NCAA Championships, the highest finish in program history!
“After finishing fifth at the national cross country meet in the 2020-21 season, I think our team has the potential for even bigger things, which is why I decided to come back for another year as a Gopher. We’re going into next year with a ton of momentum and an awesome culture, and I’m also looking forward to competing on our home track for the Big Ten Outdoor Track and Field Championship.” —Bethany Hasz
As Hasz said the Gophers will host the 2022 Outdoor Track and Field Championships next spring.
As for the not as positive news, Gopher Men’s cross-country and assistant track coach Steve Plasencia is retiring after 25 years in charge of the Gopher program.
Plasencia was a 1979 Gopher grad who would go on to compete for the US Olympic Team in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics. He would be hired by the U in 1996 to coach Gopher men’s cross country and served in that capacity for 13 years. In 2008, he was promoted to director of men’s cross country and track & field. Following a reorganization of the track & field program in 2018, Plasencia remained head coach for cross country and became assistant track & field coach.
In his 25 years at the U Plasencia has coached five Big Ten Track & Field Team Championships, three indoor and two outdoor; 26 Big Ten Indoor Individual Champions, 22 Big Ten Outdoor Individual Champions, 82 Indoor Track and 47 Outdoor Track All-Americans. His teams have made 15 NCAA Cross Country Championship appearances with eight top-20 NCAA Cross Country team finishes. He has coached 12 Cross Country All-Americans, three Big Ten Cross Country individual champions and 39 All-Big Ten Cross Country Awards.
For those performances Coach Plaz was named a Four-time Midwest Region Cross Country Coach of the Year (1998, 2001, 2004, and 2015), a two-time Midwest Region Indoor Track & Field Coach of the Year (2009 and 2011) a three-time Big Ten Indoor Coach of the Year (2009, 2010 and 2011) and a two-time Big Ten Outdoor Coach of the Year (2009 and 2010).
Congrats to Steve Plasencia on a great career in the maroon and gold!