Michigan State cross country shines at Spartan Invitational


MSU cross country country runner Fatima Giron (17) during a 2021 meet/ Photo Credit: MSU Athletic Communications

Jake Lyskawa, Track & Field/Cross Country Beat Reporter

EAST LANSING — The Michigan State women’s cross country team finished first at the 41st annual Spartan Invitational, while the Spartan men took third on a hot and humid Friday afternoon.

The Michigan State women scored 19 points in the big win over second-place Grand Valley State (71 points) and third-place SUNY Geneseo (171 points), among others. 

“Today was really great,” director of track & field/cross country Lisa Breznau said. “It’s exactly what we were going for. We talk a lot about being in it for the fight. If you’re anxious, if you’re scared, going in anyway. Working through those things, fighting for one another, racing as a team.”

Sophomore Kaitlyn Hynes led the way for the Spartan women. Hynes finished first with a 21:07.42 time over the 6000-meter distance. Hynes, fifth-year senior Katie Osika, junior Makenna Veen and graduate student Grace Molloy ran together for a majority of the race, establishing an early lead over the rest of the pack.

“This meet is so fun, it’s the only one that we really get to host and we have all of our family and friends here and everyone that supports us,” Hynes said. “I was just trying to encourage my teammates and run with them. It was great to have Katie and Makenna, they kind of did the work for me. I’m just really proud of them.” 

Osika took second in 21:14.14, with Veen right behind her in third (21:22.24) and Molloy in fifth (21:31.62). This was Molloy’s first race in the green and white after coming over from the University of Oxford. 

Grand Valley State’s Natalie Graber was the only non-Spartan in the top five. Junior Emily Bardwell (21:46.64) and senior Lauren Freeland (21:47.27) took ninth and 10th, respectively, to round out the top 10 for the Spartans. Bardwell’s time was a personal best.

Michigan State had 34 (eight unattached) women’s runners compete for them on Friday after not participating in the Big Ten Preview a week prior. The Spartan women placed nine runners in the top 25 en route to their dominant victory. 

The Spartan men were led by senior Aden Smith and graduate transfer CarLee Stimpfel. Stimpfel, running unattached, led through the first two miles of the race, but his lead was overtaken by Grand Valley State’s Tanner Chada. John Carroll’s Alex Phillip caught up and sat in second for the rest of the race, while Smith made up ground and sat in third. 

That’s how the top three finished, with Stimpfel taking fourth. Chada won the race in 24:03.7 over the 8000-meter distance, while Phillip ran a time of 24:29.11. Smith’s time was a PR of 24:35.54 and Stimpfel ran 24:40.50 in his second race as a Spartan. Michigan State junior Owen Huard used an impressive final stretch to take seventh in a time of 24:48.17. Sophomore Jack Pennewell was the only other Spartan to finish in the top 25, running 25:19.65 to take 21st. 

“The team’s been training really well lately,” Smith said. “I’d say we’ve had a very good start to the season. Everyone put in the work this summer, we’re all ready to go. This meet was really good, too, for everybody. We’re just excited to keep it rolling and keep getting better and better toward Big Tens and hopefully regionals and nationals as well.”

Thirteen Michigan State men competed on Friday, with six running unattached. Michigan State put out a smaller roster due to the men competing at the Big Ten Preview in Ann Arbor last week. They took second in that meet. 

Grand Valley State, the reigning Division II national champions, took first place with 45 points, while Cincinnati took second (89) and Michigan State finished third (115).

With many of its younger runners having gained racing experience, Michigan State will head to Minneapolis on Friday, Sep. 23, to compete in the Griak Invitational.