Oct. 31, 2010
MADISON, Wis. - The Michigan State women's cross country team claimed its third ever Big Ten Championship title today (Oct. 31) at the Thomas Zimmer Championship Cross Country Course in Madison, Wis. The Spartans turned in a top-team score of 74 points to capture their first team title since 2001. Winning the individual Big Ten Championship crown was senior Emily MacLeod with her career-best time of 19:53.8, topping her previous fastest time by 21 seconds. MacLeod's mark is the second-fastest 6k time ever recorded by a Spartan at the Big Ten Championships, trailing Nicole Bush's 19:48.38.
"The women have exemplified a championship team all fall," said MSU's director of cross country and track & field Walt Drenth. "Our goal is always to control what we can and run our best. Today was the culmination of those goals. The race was a great team effort. It seems every time we race a couple new people step up, a sign of a great team."
Entering the weekend as the top-ranked Big Ten team in the nation, at 16th in the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll, the women held true to form as they achieved one of their goals they set out for at the beginning of the season. MSU improved five places from the 2009 standings in which it finish sixth overall. The Green and White captured the first team crown ever sanctioned by the Big Ten Conference in 1981. Twenty years later, the Spartans once again were atop the conference standings when they finished first with a team score of 35 points. MSU once again made history today as its points total is the highest winning score ever to win the women's Big Ten title.
"It is really gratifying to see the team do everything well all fall and have it turn out this way," said Drenth. "Championships do not happen in a vacuum. Coach McGreevy and Coach Senakiewich have done a tremendous job this fall in helping each athlete prepare for this. They both deserve a huge amount of credit."
MacLeod started out of the gates strong for the Spartans, heading out in the lead pack. MacLeod remained poised throughout the race as she was one of the top-three runners at the 3k checkpoint, maintaining a time of 10:14. Looking to make history, MacLeod began to pull away with Minnesota's Stephanie Price as each maintained a pace of 5:21 throughout the whole race. In the end, MacLeod had enough kick to squeak away with 2010 Big Ten Women's Cross Country Champion honors with her time of 19:53.8, narrowly edging Price's 19:55.5. As a result of her top finish, MacLeod becomes just the fifth individual to win a Big Ten Individual title. MacLeod also earned first-team All-Big Ten honors for the second-consecutive year, becoming just the eighth individual in program history to nab at least two All-Big Ten honors in their career.
"We are all really excited with our performances today at the Big Ten Championships," said MacLeod. "At the start of the season we set out with this achievement as one of our team goals. In the end, we all did our best and it turned out very well for the team.
"After crossing the finish line, I was actually more concerned with how the team was doing not how I had finished. I then turned around and began to watch each of the girls finish, and that is when I realized how the team did as a whole and had won the championship."
"Emily was the consummate leader her entire race and it revolved around helping the team win," said Drenth. "She lead the majority of the race and ran away finally with about 200 meters to go."
After taking home the top individual runners, MacLeod had to wait for the proceeding four Spartans to cross to see how the team would finish. Crossing with the second pack of runners was junior Carlie Green. Green remained close to MacLeod throughout the whole race as she posted a 3k split time of 10:26. Knowing that every position was pivotal, Green remained poised and in position to help Michigan State to the team title. Green finished with a time of 20:34.4 for seventh place, joining MacLeod on the podium with first-team All-Big Ten honors. Green maintained a strong pace of 5:32 for the duration of the race.
"Carlie was equally impressive running to her first first-team All-Big Ten honor," said Drenth.
Sophomore Katie Haines was the third Spartan to cross the finish when she posted a time of 20:50.3. Haines turned in a 17th-place finish to narrowly miss earning second-team All-Big Ten honors. Haines held a 5:36 pace for the course of the 6k race.
"I think our progress from last fall is most reflected today by Katie Haines," said Drenth. "Her run today was fearless, confident, and important in giving the women a chance to win."
Turning in the fourth-fastest MSU time was sophomore Kristen Smith. Smith finished roughly seven seconds behind Haines in 22nd place when she posted a time of 20:57.2. Smith kept pace for a majority of the race with Haines as she had a pace of 5:38.
Giving MSU the title was freshman Julia Otwell's 27th-place finish in the race. Otwell turned in a time of 21:02.4, finishing five seconds behind Smith. Knowing that the fifth runner is what ends the team scoring, Otwell's 27th placing in her Big Ten Champions debut gave the Green and White a total of 74 points, topping intra-state rival Michigan (88 points) by 14 points. Two points behind the Wolverines in third was Minnesota with 90 points.
Narrowly missing a top-five team performance was junior Rebekah Smeltzer. Smeltzer finished the race in 30th overall with a time of 21:06.7, four seconds behind Otwell. Smeltzer paced a time of 5:40.
In 43rd place was freshman Sara Kroll, who in her first Big Ten Championships appearance clocked in at 21:23.5. Joining MSU as the eighth and ninth runners were juniors Tiffany Evans and Emily Langenberg. Evans finished in 21:30.3 for 47th place, while Langenberg finished in 22:07.7 for 74th.
The men's race followed the women's race, however the Spartans were not quite able to complete the sweep as Wisconsin captured its 12th-consective title with a score of 28 points. The men finished fifth as a team with a score of 141 points, trailing Indiana (75), Minnesota (101) and Penn State (128). Taking home individual medalist honors was Landon Peacock of host Wisconsin with his time of 23:40.8, just a half second ahead of Andrew Bayer of Indiana in second.
"I believe the men ran one of the more courageous races they have run recently," said Drenth. "We have essentially been two men down for a month and they never wavered from running all in. They were real patient and ran with a really high level of persistence. I am confident that when we compete at the regionals in two weeks we will be close to whole and make a real run at qualifying for nationals. Individually Ben Miller and Sherod Hardt are making great progress for young guys, and Pat Grosskopf has remained incredibly consistent as our leader."
Sophomore Ben Miller paced the MSU men when he clocked in with a career-best time of 24:08.4. Miller's mark was good enough for 16th place, narrowly missing out on All-Big Ten honors by two positions.
Seven spots behind Miller in 23rd place was senior Patrick Grosskopf. Grosskopf originally broke out at the start with the lead pack as he had a 3k time of 9:07. However, Grosskopf slowly began to fade back as he wound up finishing the race in 14:18.2.
In his Big Ten Championships debut, freshman Sherod Hardt held his own as he was just the second freshman in the race to cross the finish line. Andrew Shields of Wisconsin was the only freshman to finish ahead of Hardt. Hardt finished with a time of 24:31.4 to just squeak by senior Alex Russeau in 32nd place by one tenth of a second (24:31.5).
Rounding out the top five runners for the Spartans was sophomore Isaiah VanDoorne in 39th place with a time of 24:41.5.
Junior Joe Dimambro was the sixth teammate to finish when he crossed in 25:12.0, good enough for 62nd-place overall.
Freshman Stephen Walker also made his Big Ten Championships debut today for MSU. Walker clocked in at 25:22.8 for the Spartans. The final competitor for the Spartans in the men's race was sophomore Brian Hankins. Hankins finished the championships with a time of 26:04.3, good enough for 79th place.
After a weekend off, the Spartans return to action on Saturday, Nov. 13, when they travel down the road to Rochester, Mich. for the 2010 NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championships hosted by Oakland University. Last year, the MSU men placed second overall to automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships for the first time in three years. MacLeod paced the women's squad with her first-place finish with a time of 20:42.7 to earn USTFCCCA Great Lakes Region Athlete of the Year, as well as All-Region honors.