The women’s cross country team can now mark the Big Ten Championship off their list as champions for the second year in a row. Not only that, but conference weekend is done and the Spartan women still claim the No. 1 spot in the nation.
The team not only claimed the overall champion, Leah O’Connor, as their own, but was also the only team to put all five scorers in the top 11. This put the Spartans at a score of 26, the third-lowest in Big Ten history and half of what second-place University of Wisconsin received at 55 points.
This race was pegged as a battle between in-state rivals MSU and the University of Michigan, but the Wolverines’ top runner, Erin Finn, was out with an injury. This changed the front pack dynamic, making it a battle between MSU and Wisconsin.
In the first 3,000 meters, there were four Wisconsin runners in the top six. MSU assistant coach Lisa Senakiewich said that all the girls did a good job of remaining confident and not being distracted by such a large pack of Wisconsin women.
“It’s easy to want to panic when you see something happening like that, being overtaken by a group from another team” Senakiewich said. “Every time we saw them we said stick to your race plan and stay poised.”
The team’s usual race plan is to attack the race in the last 2,000 meters and it proved to work to their benefit, ending the race with a strong pack up front. Another tried and true race plan? Sticking together and racing for each other.
“I think every step of the way there was not a selfish decision made during that race,” Senakiewich said. “It was clear that everyone was competing for a common goal and for a common element and that showed through the group from Leah to Melanie Brender.”
The Spartan women will battle against most of the Big Ten teams in two weeks at the Great Lakes Regionals at Wisconsin on Friday, Nov. 14.
Alexa McCarthy is the host of the Last Leg for Impact Sports.