Oct. 30, 2012
EAST LANSING, Mich. - Junior Sara Kroll was named the Big Ten Cross Country Athlete of the Year, as announced by the league office on Tuesday, Oct. 30. The 2012 Big Ten Championship winner, Kroll ran a personal-best 20:12 in the women's 6,000-meter race on Sunday at Forest Akers East Golf Course.
"By receiving this title, it makes me feel that all of my hard work and training over the past six months has paid off," said Kroll. "Being able to reach all my goals that I've set this year, it's gratifying knowing that I'm doing the right things and following the plans that my coaches are giving me. It reassures me that I chose the right place to go because the coaches and my teammates are bringing the out the best qualities of me as a person and as a runner. We push each other to be the best we can be every day in practice and we've become such a close-knit group that it's because of those relationships that really makes us shine as a team."
The Westland, Mich., native was a unanimous selection for Athlete of the Year honors after leading her team to a runner-up finish at the Big Ten Championships. She is the sixth Spartan to earn Athlete of the Year honors and the second to win in the last three years. Kroll's first-place performance earned her first-team All-Big Ten honors after receiving second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2011 with her eighth-place finish.
"It's a well-deserved honor," said director of cross country/track and field Walt Drenth. "Sara has been competitive in every meet. Her work and efforts speak for themselves. We're really proud of her. We could see her climbing the ladder through the course of the year and thought she had a genuine chance to win. I think the award was given to the right person."
The two Spartans join 23 other cross country athletes who have distinguished themselves through sportsmanship and ethical behavior. In addition, the student-athletes must be in good academic standing and have demonstrated strong citizenship outside of the sports-competition setting.
These student-athletes are now candidates for the Big Ten Sportsmanship Award, as the conference office will honor one male and one female student-athlete from each institution at the end of the academic year.
"We consider a number of people for this award because we have so many who have done a good job of managing their challenges and performing well," Drenth said. "But Rachel's situation just stood out. In 2010, she had some injuries and a number of people would have walked away from the sport. She had enough passion for the sport and the team to stay with it and endure those challenges and to have the success she's had with a smile on her face. Caleb has also been on a long road with a frustrating injury over the summer and has done a really nice job this season, so it was easy to pick them."
McFarlane was also named to the second-team All-Big Ten after she finished 14th overall at the conference championships with a time of 20:44.10.
Rhynard was the top MSU runner in the men's 8,000-meter race at the Big Ten Championships. He finished 19th overall, recording a personal-best time of 24:21.70.
Redshirt sophomore Leah O'Connor also received first-team All-Big Ten honors after placing fourth at the championships in a time of 20:24.60.
The Spartans return to action on Friday, Nov. 9, when they travel back to Madison, Wis., for the 2012 NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championships hosted by University of Wisconsin.