The start of the Roy Griak Invitational
The jewel of the Golden Gophers’ home schedule each season is the prestigious Roy Griak Invitational The invitational is named after coaching legend Roy Griak, who was Minnesota’s head men’s cross country coach for 33 years and continues to work with the Gophers to this day.
The meet has had various names, includimg the Minnesota Invitational and the Norstand Invitational, but regardless of what it has been called, it remains one of the nation’s largest cross country meets and always draws large crowds and the best competitors.
The Minnesota Invitational was started by Griak and current Gopher women’s coach Gary Wilson in 1986. The name was changed in 1995 to the Norstand Invitational and was kept that way until 1997 when Wilson suggested calling the meet the Roy Griak Invitational to honor, who retired as head coach in 1996.
The Griak Invitational is held every year on the last weekend in September at the Les Bolstad Golf Course in Falcon Heights and according to Griak, it’s an excellent course.
“It’s a great course, but a very demanding course,” the former coach said. “Every team thinks it’s a great course and all the teams that come to compete year after year make this meet so special.”
During the 25 years the meet has been in existence, it has grown from a large cross country meet to a national spectacle.
Last year, there were 22 NCAA Division I men’s teams in the Griak field, with five teams later advancing to the NCAA Championships. There were also 58 men’s NCAA Division II, III, or NAIA teams as well as numerous high school teams that competed at the Griak.
The 2011 Griak Invitational will be no different. All in all, there are more than 350 men’s, women’s and high school teams numbering over 3,500 student-athletes, that will come to compete in the Griak Invitational.
Duke captured the Griak Gold Race crown last year with 83 points. Arizona junior Stephen Sambu won the individual race with a time of 23:41. Minnesota placed fifth overall with Ben Blankenship collecting a 10th place finish. Augustanta (SD.) won the Maroon II team title, while Wisconsin-Platteville captured the Maroon III crown.
According to Griak, the meet is a lot more than a cross country race. It’s an event.
“It’s a happening and more than a cross country race. It’s more like a county fair,” Griak said. “Several thousand gather to watch this meet. It’s one of the most prestigious meets in the country in terms of the course, the spectators and the competition.”