Spartan Cross Country Set For National Championships
The men compete at nationals after earning an automatic bid, as women race for 17th-straight season.
East Lansing, Michigan – The Michigan State men’s and women’s cross country teams travel to Terre Haute, Indiana, for the 2016 NCAA Cross Country National Championships at the LaVern Gibson Cross Country Course on Saturday, Nov. 19. The women’s 6,000-meter run opens the competition at 11 a.m., while the men’s 10,0000 meters is at noon.
“There is a lot of talent, so you have to have your willingness. Talent gets you here, but everybody here is talented. I think you get to a meet like this, and your will has more to do with it than anything else as far as I am concerned,” said Director of Cross Country Walt Drenth. “Sometimes it's not going to go very well, but your will can overcome that.”
The Spartans enter the championships ranked No. 15 on the men’s side and No. 22 in the women’s poll.
Michigan State had a total of seven harriers garner All-Region honors at the Great Lakes Regional on Nov. 11 in Madison, Wisconsin, four in the men’s race and three for the women. The men’s team earned an automatic bid to the championships with a second-place effort at the regional meet, finishing behind Wisconsin. The women’s team was awarded an at-large bid to Terre Haute after taking fourth at the regionals. The MSU women have the second-longest active streak of making it to nationals, having qualified 17-straight seasons. Stanford is the only program to better the feat with 24, as Michigan is third at 14.
“I think there is a lot of truth to the fact that we just have to run Michigan State style,” said Drenth. “I don't need anyone to do anything special because if we come out of character that is an enormous mistake. I believe we have to be patient as a group. I think if the entire team follows suit, we can do a lot of damage at this meet.”
Senior Sherod Hardt has paced the Green and White four out the five races he has lined up for this season, highlighted by a second-place, all-conference effort at the Big Ten Championships and a third-place finish at the Great Lakes Regional. Sophomore Ryan Robinson has put together a strong season, beating Hardt out at the Roy Griak on Sept. 24, taking fourth, while also earning All-Regional honors.
The women’s team is led by a pair of All-Americans in seniors Rachele Schulist and Alexis Wiersma. Schulist finished fourth at nationals in 2014, clocking a time of 19:54.30. The three-time All-Region runner missed the second-half of the 2015 season with an injury. Wiersma took 21st in last year’s edition of the championships, crossing the line in 20:12.1 to become Michigan State’s sixth All-American on the women’s team since 2010.
No. 12 Wisconsin and No. 24 Illinois join the Spartans on the men’s side from the Big Ten at the championships, as No. 5 Michigan, No. 8 Penn State and No. 25 Wisconsin will run alongside MSU in the women’s race. Michigan State and the Badgers are the only programs from the conference with both the men and women competing in Terre Haute.
“We have to be patient, and we have to run the course smart. All those things I trust them to do. We will talk a lot about applying our will, and applying what we've learned, and applying our energy as a group, but most importantly I trust them to manage the things they know. I just want them to know that how they determine the outcome is going to be primarily if they trust what we have done so far,” said Drenth.
Last year, the Spartan women combined for 13th place, tallying a score of 368, while the men finished 25th with 543.
The 2016 NCAA Cross Country Championships will be streamed live by FloTrack and live results will be available at NCAA.com.