Sept. 28, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State cross country team performed strong at the Roy Griak Invitational on Saturday afternoon in Minneapolis, Minn. Held at the Les Bolstad Golf Course on the campus of Minnesota, the women finished second overall with 72 points, while the men earned a sixth place team finish with 219 points, beating out 24th-ranked N.C. State.
"I thought we competed really well," said director of cross country/track & field Walt Drenth. "I was really pleased with both groups. Going in, our objective was to see if we were better and see how much we had improved. We had to make some adjustments on things we didn't do well at the Spartan Invite, so I was really pleased with the progress. I thought both groups managed the course very well. It was a hard course and the weather conditions were not great. We ran through adversity with a couple of athletes falling on both teams. It didn't distract them and it didn't seem to bother them at all. All in all, I was pleased with the way we went about our business."
Crossing the finish line first for the women, Rachele Schulist clocked a time of 21:07 to place ninth overall. Leah O'Connor was closed behind, finishing 12th with a time of 21:15, followed by Katie Landwehr in 13th with a time of 21:19. Rounding out the top-20 finishes for MSU was Shelby Jackson (21:21) and Lindsay Clark (21:23), who placed 18th and 20th, respectively.
"A 15-second split from one to five with that level of competition and our level of talent, that's a pretty tough thing to do and speaks to the team strength and our quality of depth," Drenth said. "Leah (O'Connor) is really good and in just a short month and a half, she's turned into a tremendous leader. But it's good to know that if she doesn't have a perfect day that someone like Rachele Schulist will step up and it could be someone else's turn next time. It's a pretty young team. In our top seven, we have a number of freshman, a couple of sophomores and a couple of upperclassmen. I think we have some growing to do, but I'm pretty optimistic."
On the men's side, Caleb Rhynard placed eighth overall with a time of 24:40 as the top-finisher for MSU. Next to cross for the Spartans was Ben Carruthers with a time of 25:11 for to place 44th, while David Madrigal finished 45th with a time of 25:12. Also placing in the top-50 was Nick Soter, clocking a time of 25:34.
"Especially for the guys, it was a big step because we're really trying to make some progress," said Drenth. "We beat some teams that have a good chance to make nationals. I thought the top four particularly did a really nice job. Caleb (Rhynard) is Caleb; he's going to have a tremendous career here. I thought that Ben (Carruthers), Alex (Wilson) and David (Madrigal) did a great job of racing through the field. I'm excited to see where Garret (Zuk) and Nick Soter end up by the end of the year. I'm confident that those two guys have a lot of ability and as the season progresses, they learn more about how to race and who they are as competitors, they'll be very good by the year's end which is important for us because they are going to be some of our top guys."
Taking the first-place team finish for the women was Arizona with 48 points, while Bringham Young took home the team title for the men with 62 points.
"You learn something off a hard cross country course like this," Drenth said. "I think it should give us some additional confidence. If we expect to qualify for the NCAA Championships, we have to get into the national level of competition and test ourselves. Some of it for us is accumulating points against teams from outside of our region. That's an important asset of this whole process. I thought that on both sides, we accomplished that. I would say mission accomplished in a lot of respects."
After a weekend off, the Spartans will compete in-state at the Michigan Intercollegiates. The meet will be hosted by Hillsdale College on Friday, Oct. 11.