Nov. 21, 2011
TERRE HAUTE, Ind.- The Michigan State women's cross country team placed 16th overall at the 2011 NCAA Cross Country Championships on Monday, Nov. 21 in Terre Haute, Ind. Sophomore Sara Kroll was the top individual for the Green and White, as she recorded a time of 20:37.4, good enough for 51st overall.
"Today was definitely an improvement from last year," said MSU director of cross country and track & field Walt Drenth. "You can always be proud of being a top 20 team at the NCAA Championships. I am certainly proud of this team. It has been a great year, with back-to-back Big Ten Championships. That was definitely the highlight of the year, there is no question about that. Today was a good solid effort, I think we have been better, but we saw some very good performances. In order to be a top 10 team, we need to have great performances from everyone from the top to the bottom.
"The experience today will be great for the upcoming years, as we only lose two runners from the competitive team. With five of the seven returning, and nearly each of them with two years of eligibility left, this will definitely set the team up for success in the years to come. We weren't that far off today from quite possibly being a top 10 team."
MSU recorded a team score of 386, only three points behind Michigan in 15th place. Georgetown claimed the women's team crown with a score of 162 points, narrowly edging out Washington in second (170) and Villanova in third (181). Senior Sheila Reid took home individual honors, finishing in 19:41.2, only 0.6 seconds ahead of Jordan Hasay of Oregon's 19:41.8 finish.
This marked the squad's best finish at the year-end race since 2008, when MSU placed 11th overall. It was also the team's 10th performance all-time with a finish in the top 20.
Kroll was joined at the 3k split by classmate Julia Otwell and senior Carlie Green, as each posted near identical 10:11 splits. Kroll began to separate herself from her teammates in the second half of the race, finishing 10 second ahead of Otwell's time of 20:47.6. Otwell placed 69th overall, while Green trailed back to a 21:12.6 time for 122nd place.
"Being led by a couple of sophomores in Julia and Sara, of which only one was in the NCAA race last year, I thought, was truly remarkable. Sara was just a few seconds from being an All-American, and Julia wasn't too far behind that," noted Drenth.
Junior Katie Haines and senior Rebekah Smeltzer were in the pack directly behind the top three Spartans at the 3k split, record times of 10:21. Haines wound up passing Smeltzer towards the end of the race, clocking in a 21:16.6 for 133rd, while Smeltzer crossed 139th in 21:18.3.
"I can't say enough about the legacy that both Carlie and Rebekah will leave on this program. They have helped this team grow leaps and bounds over the past four years. To win two Big Ten Championships, and to make the NCAA Championships each of their four years, they will certainly be missed both on and off the course next year," said Drenth.
Senior Rachel McFarlane was the next Spartan to cross, as she recorded a time of 21:34.6 for 171st. McFarlane rallied late after splitting with a 10:30 3k mark.
Freshman Leah O'Connor was the final runner to cross for MSU, as she finished the 6k race in 21:50.0. O'Connor's time placed her 198th overall in the race. At the 3k split, O'Connor had a 10:32 mark.
"For Rachel and Leah, this is their first crack at the NCAA Championships, and to see the way they competed, surely makes us all proud. They have learned a great deal over the course of the season, and it certainly showed this afternoon," Drenth said.