Oct. 19, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Among 35 of the nation's top-ranked programs, the Michigan State cross country team competed at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational on Saturday afternoon. Held at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course, the ninth-ranked women raced to a fourth-place team finish with 200 points, while the men finished 26th with 583 points.
"I thought we saw progress out of the entire women's team and parts of the men," said director of cross country/track & field Walt Drenth. "I'm optimistic for the guys. I felt like our men were ready to be in the top-15. We still beat some teams that are ranked, so it's not like we've taken our chances away. We just have to keep getting better. On the women's side, we just have to stay healthy and keep moving. Fourth-place in this race I think is a great job. I look at the men's results and we're not that far away from being a top-10 team. I look at how we match up with teams in our conference and how we match up with the teams in our region and I think we'll run well at 10,000-meters and we'll just keep getting better. You've got to take the positive things about it and that there are more good signs than bad."
Out of a field of 37 teams, the No. 9 MSU women's cross country team turned in a fourth-place finish led by Leah O'Connor who clocked a career-best time of 20:13 for 22nd overall. Also finishing with a career-best time of 20:18 was Rachele Schulist who posted a 25th-place finish. Katie Landwehr (20:36) and Lindsey Clark (20:37) each earned career-best times and fought through the crowd to place 44th and 46th, respectively. Rounding out the Spartan scorers was Shelby Jackson, who also posted a career-best time of 20:47 to finish 63rd.
"On the women's side, we were amazingly poised," said Drenth. "Two of our top-five and three of our top-seven fell 10-meters off the starting line. When they went down, they were literally in the last 50. Katie Landwehr and Lindsay Clark had to work their way through the crowd to get back to where they wanted to be competitively. They did an amazing job of keeping their poise and running well in the late stages of the race. Literally, they ran almost 30-seconds faster the last 3,000-meters than they did the first. So really, there were a lot of pretty positive things that came out of this from that standpoint.
"Leah O'Connor and Rachele Schulist both did a great job of racing close to the front. They are really showing now that they can overcome adversity. I'm excited about how the next three meets are going to go for them and I'm very optimistic about how they can be at the nationals. I think we're an improved team from last year and we're running with a young group. There are a couple of freshmen and sophomores in our top-five. That's a good thing."
The men turned in a 26th-place team finish out of 35 teams in the field. Finishing first for MSU was Caleb Rhynard, who placed 22nd overall with a personal-best time of 23:38. Ben Carruthers was the next to cross for the Spartans, finishing in a season-best 24:23 for 105th. He was followed by David Madrigal (24:29) and Nick Soter (24:41), who both posted season-best times, as well. Also scoring for the Spartans and running a season-best was Garrett Zuk (24:51, 179th).
"On the guy's side, we have to have everyone running well in order for us to maximize who we are," Drenth said. "We don't have enough depth. I thought Caleb and Nick Soter ran really well. David Madrigal and Ben Carruthers were solid, but I don't think they ran their best. I'm optimistic about the conference and regionals because I think we still have a chance to qualify for nationals. The 10,000-meter will suit us. There's some positive things, but what we know for us is that we have to have everybody running well. We don't have the depth for any kind of error."
Arizona took home the women's team title with 117 points, while the Lumberjacks of Northern Arizona won the men's team earned first-place honors with 121 points. Winning the women's 6,000-meter race was Abbey D'Agostino of Dartmouth with a time of 19:31. In the men's 8,000-meter race, Arkansas' Kemoy Campbell was first to cross the finish line in 23:12.
"It's really hard to duplicate this," said Drenth. "The next time we run against anything like the magnitude of this competition will be at nationals. It's an intense meet without a lot of room to run. I think those are the things you have to learn in order to go to nationals and be successful. The conference and regionals are going to be sound, but the dynamics of this meet are completely different from any other meet until we get to the championships. I just want everybody to go out and be tough so that we know how to manage ourselves and look at the things we can improve. I thought we got a lot of value out of this meet."
The Spartans will close out the regular season as they travel to Dexter, Mich., for the EMU Fall Classic on Friday, Oct. 25th.