The Michigan State cross country team started their season like they never had before, in Eugene, Ore.
Battling not only a nationally ranked team but also 90-degree temperatures, the Spartans found themselves up for the challenge.
The women took home first place in the five-team portion of the 6K event with top three individual finishers, while the men placed second behind Oregon in the 8K race.
“This race was a great example of what’s to come, especially because it’s so early in the season,” assistant coach Lisa Senakiewich said.
The Spartans dominated the women’s race, going 1-2-3 and finishing five runners in the top eight.
Rachele Schulist (19:38) and NCAA 3,000 meter steeplechase champion Leah O’Connor (19:53) led the race early on and never relinquished, accomplishing a first and second place finish. Lindsay Clark (20:11) trailed not far behind in third place. Other top scorers were Sara Kroll (20:23) who finished in sixth and Alexis Wiersma (20:29) in eighth.
“Rachele took [the race]early and decided to lead, and that’s what we want,” Senakiewich said. “We want to have women that have the mindset that they should be up front and that they can get there.”
As a whole, the women’s team lived up to all the hype that Flotrack and others predicted the Spartans to be a frontrunner for the NCAA title in November.
On the men’s side, Caleb Rhynard (24:28) finished third overall and battled against Oregon’s No. 2 ranked runners in the lead pack. Ben Carruthers (24:39) finished seventh, Nick Soter (24:59) ran in at 12th place and Andrew Cusmano (25:12) placed 13th.
“The men rocked it, I think our men’s team is significantly better than they’ve been in the past,” Senakiewich said. “And they’re ready for an impressive season.”
The coaching staff will keep reminding the athletes that this is just the beginning.
“This race reminded them of how hard it is,” Senakiewich said. “During the summer, you may have good days and bad days but you’re really only in practice mode, so when you get back the first few weeks are hard. We just keep reminding them it’s supposed to feel really hard and reminding them that’s its OK.”
After a race far from home, the Spartans will run on home turf in the 2014 Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational on Friday, Sept. 12. The event will be at Forest Akers Golf Course with events scheduled to begin at 12 p.m. for the women’s 6K college race followed by the men’s 8K race at approximately 12:30 p.m.
Alexa McCarthy is the host of the Last Leg for Impact Sports.
Photo by: Eric Evans and Nate Berratt for GoDucks.com