For NCAA Cross Country, this weekend marked a rise in the stakes as points start to matter. The Michigan State cross country team accomplished exactly what they wanted this weekend at Minnesota’s Roy Griak Invitational.
The No. 3 ranked Spartan women grabbed a first place team finish in an impressive fashion. The team recorded 66 points in the 6K race. The men’s team finished fourth among a competitive field with 153 total points in the 8K race.
The women went against a top-heavy field, with seven top 30 teams competing. MSU’s main competition was No. 9 Iowa State, who had two runners finish in the top five. The Spartans showed for the third time this season why they are ranked No. 3 and beat Iowa State 66-102.
While they may have only had Rachele Schulist finish in the top five, they showed the depth of their team. All five scorers for the Spartans finished within the top 22. No other team had more than three in the top 30.
Schulist was able to fight within the leading pack to finish fifth (20:05). Leah O’Connor rounded out the women’s top 10 finishes in ninth place (21:30). O’Connor finished third out of the three nationally-ranked steeplechasers competing in the race.
Lindsay Clark (21:33) and Sara Kroll (21:46) were not to far behind O’Connor in 12th and 18th place respectively. Alexis Wiersma (21:52) was the final scorer for MSU in 22nd place. The last two MSU runners were still able to finish within the top 50, with Julia Otwell (22:09) in 33rd and Katie Landwehr (22:19) in 43rd.
The men’s race proved that rankings are often shallow representations of what a team can do. The Spartan men beat out ranked North Carolina (19), Texas (24) and Iowa State (27). MSU was joined by fellow unranked teams in the top five — Southern Utah (142) came in first and Minnesota (149) in third.
All-American junior Caleb Rhynard led for most of the race, but was overtaken by Southern Utah’s Nate Jewkes and University of Texas’ Craig Lutz at the very end of the race. Rhynard finished third (24:49) overall. Ben Carruthers (25:34) finished 25th and Alex Wilson (25:42) in 35th. Sharod Hardt (25:46) in 39th and Ben Miller (25:42) in 51st also scored for MSU. Max Benoit (26:10) and Andrew Cusmano (26:13) also competed.
Alexa McCarthy is the host of the Last Leg for Impact Sports