EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Seniors Alexis Wiersma, Rachele Schulist, Sherod Hardt and redshirt freshman Ryan Robinson all garnered All-Big Ten accolades to help lead Michigan State's men and women cross country programs to a pair of top-five finishes.
The No. 27 ranked women's team kicked off the strong Spartans performance finishing third, as the No. 29 ranked men's team took second, an accomplishment that has not been done by the men's team since 1998.
Wiersma paced the way for Michigan State racing to a fifth place finish, clocking in at 21:07.9. Her fifth place finished earned her First Team All-Big Ten, her third consecutive year being named to the cross country All-Big Ten team.
Schulist was the second Spartan to finish, crossing the line at 21:18.1. She finished in ninth place, to add her to the Second Team All-Big Ten. Freshman Jeralyn Poe made the next Spartan appearance, racing to a 17th place finish with a season-best time of 21:36.5.
"Given Rachele's last race at Wisconsin, I think it was great for her to get up there and be in the action. We knew if both her and Ali were running well they would both be in the top 10," said Director of Cross Country Walt Drenth. "They showed a great amount of leadership today. They gave everyone else a point of reference on how they were going to work throughout the race."
"Shelby's leadership was fantastic. The big group of young ones went out with Shelby, and when she got running, they all tagged along. It was really important to have that group run together. Shelby's leadership was outstanding," said Drenth.
The women's team finished with a final score of 80 points, only 10 points shy of the second place team, Penn State. Michigan won the women's Big Ten Championship with a team score of 63. Minnesota and Ohio State rounded out the top five with their fourth and fifth place finishes.
"We had other people run extremely well," said Drenth. "It was really important to see Karrigan step up and pass people in the final minutes. Jeralyn's confidence rose as the race went on, she looked good and moved through the group so well. Jenny Rogers probably had the best race of her career, and Holly Bullough was incredibly tough, and I think they all did a fantastic job today."
On the men's side, Hardt earned his first All-Big Ten honors, finishing the 8,000 meter course in 24:43.9 for a second-place finish and First Team All-Big Ten accolades. He led the pack of Spartans that maintained first place throughout the first 6,000 meters of the race.
"He said going in he wanted to try to be in the top five and I thought that was very legitimate," said Drenth. When they broke away after 5,500 meters, the course is really hilly and he was absolutely outstanding out there. He showed tremendous leadership and I couldn't be happier for him. It is so well earned, and that is the best part of it all, he has done everything right in his career up to this point."
After returning from a minor mid-season injury, Robinson was the second Spartan to cross the finish line. He crossed in as the 11th-place runner on a time of 24:56.1, a season best. With the finish, Robinson was named Second Team All-Big Ten.
The men had all their top five scoring finishers in the top 20. Junior Clark Ruiz took 15th, freshman Morgan Beadlescomb finished 18th, and senior Nick Soter rounded out the top 20 with his 20th-place finish.
"I tip my hat off to everyone. The manner in which we competed at was so great for the future," said Drenth. "I think our young guys learned so much today. To have that many guys in the top 25 is fantastic, and that speaks volumes moving forward."
As a team the men took second place at the Big Ten Championships with a final score of 66 points, just three points shy of the first-place team, Wisconsin who had 63. Indiana was the third place team with 92 points, and Minnesota and Michigan concluded the rest of the top five.
"Our poise was tremendous because it is really hard to stay up in the front the entire time. It's tough knowing there are some really talented guys in the conference right behind you. They were fearless the entire time.
"I will say it was a lot better than at Wisconsin, our last race. There is still more to get done from here. I think we will make a couple adjustments to be even more competitive in two weeks. The character came out of everyone today and I was really proud of that," said Drenth.
Michigan State's championship season will continue on November 11, in Madison, Wisconsin for the NCAA Great Lakes Regionals. The first race is set to begin at 12 p.m. ET, and all results will be posted to msuspartans.com at the conclusion of the meet.