EAST LANSING, Mich. – Michigan State’s No. 27-ranked women’s and No. 29-ranked men’s cross country teams kick off the 2016 championship season on Sunday, October 30, at the Big Ten Championships in Minneapolis, Minn.
“This is the best time of the season, championship is always the best part,” said Director of Cross Country Walt Drenth. “You want to see how the runners sort themselves out, and you want to see people at their best. If that means a genuine chance to win, outstanding, but if we run well, if we are all in, we learn something, and we trust the things that we have taught them all year we will be excited about the way things turn out.”
The meet is set at the Les Bolstad Golf Course, a course familiar to the MSU Spartans. Michigan State competed on the Les Bolstad course once this year already at the Roy Griak Invitational. The women’s 6,000-meter race begins at 11 a.m., while the men’s 8000-meter goes off at 12 p.m.
“We run this course nearly every year, and I think it does help us. It sort of gives us some familiarity. As much as anything, you can start to identify the places where there might be some problems. You have a better plan for solving problems when you get in to it.”
The women’s team walks in to this race with a core group of senior leaders. Last time out, 2015 All-American and senior Alexis Wiersma ran a season-best time of 20:28.6, at the Wisconsin Under Armour Invitational for a 12th-place finish.
Senior Shelby Jackson also garnered a season-best time at the Wisconsin Under Armour Invitational. She was the second Spartan to finish, crossing the finish line at 21:02.01.
“If we are going to do well as a team we have to have a lot of people place high,” said Drenth. “I think our senior leadership is outstanding, with Rachele (Schulist), Ali, Shelby, and Molly (Jeakle). They will do a very good job of having a good presence and having everyone nice and calm.”
The men harriers head into Sunday coming off an impressive 18th place finish at the Wisconsin Under Armour Invitational, edging out two-ranked opponents. Senior Sherod Hardt has been the catalyst for the Spartans this season.
Hardt paced the way for MSU at the Wisconsin Under Armour Invitational with a 39th-place finish on a time of 24:28.05. Freshman Jesse Hersha rann his best time of the 2016 campaign with a time of 24:53.0 to be the second MSU runner to finish.
"I think we have a nice balance on the men’s side. Sherod has done a great job of being the leader of that group, he is confident, quiet, has been consistent the whole year, and he’s really been a rock in the whole process. I am looking for a number of guys to run well this weekend,” said Drenth. “They’re expectations are very high, and that’s exactly what we want to see.”
"At the end it is still a race, and you are still competing. We will dictate some things, other teams will dictate some things, but we know how to manage ourselves on the rough spots in this course, and I think that goes a long ways on being successful,” said Drenth. “The entire group is ready to run well, and taking away from practice, it looks like they are ready to run well. It will be fun to see how it all sorts outs."
All results will be posted to msuspartans.com at the conclusion of the race day, October 30.