Michigan State cross country carved a clear path to nationals this Friday at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championship at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The women placed first and men second in their races to receive automatic bids to the NCAA National Cross Country Championship in Terre Haute, Indiana next week.
The No.1 ranked women ran to a first-place finish in the 6K race with 28 total points. This is the team’s sixth regional title.
The men raced to a historical second-place finish in the 10K race, with 86 total points. It was the men’s best finish in the championship since 2009. Both teams found themselves 1-2 in team finishes with the University of Wisconsin.
If there was a phrase to describe how the Spartan women ran it would have to be “as dynamic duos.” Leah O’Connor and Rachele Schulist paced the whole race, breaking out with an early lead and not letting go. They ran in first and second with the same time of 19:45. Watch this FloTrack video to hear the women talk about their race.
While O’Connor and Schulist ran as a team in the very front, Julia Otwell (20:05) and Lindsay Clark (20:06) finished in a similar fashion. The two ran in fifth and sixth place, finishing a second apart. In the top 20, Alexis Wiersma (20:22) and Sara Kroll (20:24) finished in 14th and 15th. Sara Stassen finished in 24th place at 20:42.
To keep up with their impressive season resume, the team put all five scorers in the top 20, producing a team score a little under a third of the Badgers’ second-place score of 82.
Another element worth mentioning — the weather was a brisk 30 degrees with flurries and wind, but no test for the Spartans.
What is more impressive than the women’s first place (but to be honest, a little predictable) finish is the men’s second place finish. This season the team has found themselves in their best position since a national bid in 2012.
Earlier in the season, assistant coach Lisa Senakiewich expressed that “We haven’t seen the guys perform like this in a long time. The team made nationals two years ago and this team is better than that team. The time before that, they made nationals in 2009, and that was a really good team, and I think this year’s team is better than that.”
The guys showed potential with top-five team finishes at the Roy Griak Invite in early October and a fifth-place finish at the Big Ten Championship two weekends ago.
Long story short, the men have had potential all season, but just needed to show it and they finally did. A second-place finish at the regional meet not only gets them an automatic bid to nationals but shows that they can run with the best, as they have suspected all season.
Caleb Rhynard (30:17) comfortably found himself in the front pack, leading the Spartans with a fourth-place finish. Ben Miller (30:31) ran to one of his top finishes this season in 11th. Alex Wilson (30:38) placed 16th, Sherod Hardt (30:43) and Nick Soter (30:44) finished together in 25th and 26th. Ben Carruthers (30:54) and Andrew Cusmano (30:59) finished 31st and 36th.
Rumor has it Hardt ran the majority of the race without one of his shoes. That is cross country for you.
The best teams in the country will be traveling to the Lavern Gibson Cross Country course in Terre Haute, Indiana to compete in the NCAA Cross Country Championship.
Alexa McCarthy is the host of Last Leg for Impact Sports.