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Cross Country Set To Compete At Big Ten Championships

Leading the Spartans will be Leah O'Connor who finished fourth overall at the 2012 Big Ten Championships in East Lansing..

Oct. 31, 2013

WATCH: MSU Cross Country Preview

Big Ten Championship Central

EAST LANSING, Mich. - The Michigan State men's and women's cross country teams will open the championship season on Sunday as the Spartans face conference foes for the Big Ten title. Hosted by Purdue University, competition will take place on Sunday, Nov. 3 at the Boilermaker Cross Country Course with the men's 8,000-meter race scheduled to start at 10:45 a.m. ET, followed by the women's 6,000-meter race at 11:45 a.m.

The Big Ten Network will offer delayed coverage of the Big Ten Championships at noon ET on Thursday, Nov. 14.

Where We Rank
In the latest U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) weekly poll, the women climbed to sixth after their strong performance at the Wisconsin adidas Invitational. Regionally, the women continue to sit at the top of the Great Lakes Region standings for the sixth-straight week. The women hold the best national ranking in the Big Ten Conference. This marks the highest ranking for the women since October of 2006, when MSU was ranked No. 4 nationally.

On the men's side, MSU is ranked sixth in the USTFCCCA Great Lakes regional rankings.

Big Ten Championship History - Women
The women enter the weekend looking for their fifth Big Ten team title, and third in four years. MSU won the first sanctioned Big Ten Championship race in 1981. Overall, the Spartans have seen six individuals finish tops at the conference championships, most recently Sara Kroll won the 2012 race in a career-best time of 20:13.

After winning back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011, the Spartan women finished second in 2012 with 75 points. Kroll led the team, but also earning first-team all-conference honors was Leah O'Connor, who finished fourth overall with a time of 20:25. Redshirt senior Rachel McFarlane received second-team all-conference honors as she finished 14th overall in 20:45. Junior Julia Otwell placed 23rd overall with a time of 20:59.

Big Ten Championship History - Men
The men have claimed 14 team titles overall. MSU enters the weekend looking for its first since winning two-straight in 1970 and 1971. Last year, the men placed seventh overall in the 8,000-meter race with 183 points. Freshman Caleb Rhynard was the top MSU runner for the men, recording a time of 24:22 for 19th place. Less than a second behind Rhynard was sophomore Alex Wilson who finished 29th with a time of 24:33. Sophomore Ben Carruthers was next to cross the finish line for the Spartans in 24:35, good for 33rd overall.

Championship Field
The Spartans will square off against the other 11 teams from the Big Ten Conference, excluding Northwestern which does not have a men's cross country squad. The women face a tough field, including six other teams ranked in the national poll. Ranked No. 6 in the USTFCCCA poll, the Spartans are the highest ranked Big Ten team in the country, followed by No. 14 Michigan, No. 15 Minnesota, No. 21 Indiana, No. 28 Wisconsin and No. 29 Penn State.

On the men's side, the field will include three teams ranked in the latest USTFCCCA top-30 national poll, led by No. 7 Wisconsin, who have won the last 14 Big Ten titles, as well as No.16 Michigan and No. 24 Indiana.

Conference Recognition
With a second-place overall finish at the Michigan Intercollegiate Championships, redshirt sophomore Andrew Cusmano was named Big Ten Athlete of the Week on Oct. 15. He led the Spartans to a second-place team finish with his time of 25:56.77, a 5:13.17 one-mile pace, and finished more than 12 seconds ahead of the next-fastest runner in the field of 98 competitors.

Crossing the finish line first for the MSU women at the Roy Griak Invitational, redshirt freshman Rachele Schulist was named Big Ten Cross Country Co-Athlete of the Week on Oct. 1. Her ninth-place time of 21:07 in the women's 6,000-meter race helped lead her team to a runner-up team finish among a field of 28 teams, 10 of which were ranked in the top-30 of the USTFCCCA poll.

Redshirt junior Leah O'Connor and redshirt sophomore Caleb Rhynard of the Michigan State cross country team swept the Big Ten Cross Country Athlete of the Week honors on Sept. 17. Both individuals earned their first weekly honors after finishing tops for the Spartans with an outstanding first race of the season when MSU hosted the Auto-Owners Insurance Spartan Invitational.

Last Time Out
The Michigan State cross country teams competed in-state last Friday as the team traveled to the EMU Fall Classic in Dexter, Mich. In their last meet of the regular season, the Spartans finished out the regular season strong at the meet with several personal-best performances.

On the men's side, Chris Collier was the first Spartan to cross the finish line as he posted a time of 15:22 for seventh overall. He was followed by Austin Wissler (16th) and Joe Oehrli (23rd) with personal-best times of 15:38 and 15:45, respectively. In his first race of the season, Reed Payant recorded a 34th-place finish with a time 16:03.

Earning a big personal-best time of 17:39 was Raquel Serna as she was the top finisher on the women's side in third-place overall. Close behind in eighth-place was Alana O'Mara who also posted a personal-best time of 18:08. Molly Jeakle picked up her personal-best time of 18:15 to place 12th overall, followed by Meggan Freeland in 14th with a time of 18:22. Also placing in the top-20 was Emily Pap, who's personal-best time of 18:36 earned her an 18th-place finish.

Next Up
The Spartans will take a week off before traveling to Madison, Wis., for the NCAA Great Lakes Regional Championships on Friday, Nov. 15.



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