Nov. 23, 2013
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Under adverse conditions, the Michigan State women’s cross country team surged to a sixth-place finish and sophomore Caleb Rhynard earned All-American honors at the NCAA Championships on Saturday afternoon in Terre Haute, Ind. The women totaled 236 points to record the highest finish since 2007, third-best in program history, and Rhynard is the first MSU men’s All-American since 1997.
“We just embraced the whole concept,” said director of cross country/track & field Walt Drenth. “The conditions were really interesting. There was more than ankle-deep mud in a lot of places. I think that a lot of teams would’ve considered it adverse. It was about 30 degrees; it’s a competition to the finish line. I thought we really did a great job. As an entire group, they were focused, they never felt sorry for themselves under conditions that could’ve easily, and did, cost other teams.
“I think it’s a tribute to the student-athletes, it’s a tribute to Coach Senakiewich and to staying in the moment and really embracing the challenges. It’s hard to do well in meet like this and in meet with this kind of adversity. The thing that we talk about a lot is to control yourself and your body. The things you can control over, those are the only things you can worry about. They weren’t distracted. At no point did anybody, Caleb or the women’s group, did they feel sorry for themselves. At no point did anyone become their own worst enemy. That’s a good trait that will take them a long ways in life and it really served them well today to meeting their potential.”
Representing the Michigan State men’s team as the sole qualifier, Rhynard finished 34th overall with a time of 30:41.40. Making his second trip to the national, Rhynard earns the first All-American honors of his career and the first for the Spartan men since Kyle Baker in 1997.
“Caleb followed the race plan really well,” Drenth said. “He didn’t get distracted. He did what he was capable of doing. I thought he was flawless in the execution of his race plan. He moved through the field well. He had high expectations. It was a great effort. It’s not as easy to come to a national championship as an individual as it is as a team. It’s hard to be purposeful. The ease of it all is completely different and I thought Caleb really managed himself well. His energy was tremendous, flawless race plan and really tough effort. 10,000-meters in that mud is no joke. He really rose to the occasion well. We thought he had a chance to get All-American, so we set the strategy up to start just outside of that group and then move into it and he really did it. He had to be really tough. At 6,000 and 8,000-meters, conditions were really difficult. He really dug into his run and made it happen. I’m really proud of him. If we can get him to be the leader of this group and everyone to buy into what he did, it will be a good step forward for the men’s program.”
With a complete team race, the Michigan State women’s team battled to a sixth-place overall finish with a team score of 236 points. It is the highest finish since MSU placed fifth in 2007 and the third-best team finish in program history. Leading the Spartans was Leah O’Connor, who finished just outside of All-American status with in 44th place overall with a time of 20:49.10. With back-to-back finishes was Rachele Schulist (20:53.90) and Katie Landwehr (20:54.70) who placed 50th and 51st overall.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the group in terms of the way the approached things, the way they raced and the way they handle themselves. It was incredibly close between the second-place team score to sixth place,” said Drenth. “I look at the results and I can’t find anywhere where we could’ve done a lot better. We just ran well. Sixth in the country, they have a lot to be proud of. If you look at how the region did with three teams in the top-six, that’s pretty stellar. They stepped up to the occasion, there’s no doubt about it. I thought we kept our poise. When we were in trouble, we ran through difficult situations very well. We followed the race plan. I told them that if we continue to do things we’ve talked about all year and we’re engaged, it will turn out pretty well.”
Next to cross the finish line for MSU was Lindsey Clark, who clocked a time of 21:06.10 for 71st. She was followed by Megan Rodgers in her last race as a Spartan, posting a time of 21:25.9 for 119th. Rounding out the women’s team was Angela Swain (154th; 21:40.80) and Shelby Jackson (168th; 21:47.20).
The Spartans conclude the season after winning their third Big Ten Championship title in four years and placing third overall at the 2013 NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championships.