Eighteen years have passed since Michigan last had an NCAA champion in cross country. Katie McGregor ran her way to victory in 1998, and on Saturday, Erin Finn will attempt to match her historic feat.
A two-time high school state champion, the West Bloomfield native was already a star runner before setting foot on campus.
Three years have passed since she first donned the the block ‘M’, but in that short time, Finn has ensured that her name will be long remembered in Ann Arbor.
As a freshman, Finn propelled Michigan to 4th place in the 2013 NCAA Championship, a feat that earned her All-American honors.
She followed that up in subsequent years by becoming the first Wolverine since McGregor to win back-to-back Big Ten championships, winning three overall. She also is a three-time Big Ten Athlete of the Year, the fastest Michigander to ever run a 10,000-meter race, and in 2015, she was once again named an All-American.
“She’s accomplished a lot,” said Michigan coach Mike McGuire. “But she’s just getting started on her career.”
Saturday, at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., Finn will have the opportunity to add another milestone to this impressive list. It will be her last cross country race as a Wolverine.
McGregor has followed Finn’s career, and now, she could watch the senior match her as an NCAA champion.
“I’m really confident in the talent she has,” McGregor said. “It definitely is going to be huge to have her go out there and win the National Championship.”
McGuire also coached McGregor to her NCAA win in 1998, and he noted the similarities between his former star runner and his current one.
“Both are ferocious competitors,” McGuire said. “(They are) two athletes that have a burning desire to prepare and a burning desire to show their preparation on race day.”
Despite her countless successes, Finn’s road to victory has not been without its bumps. Ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Finn was selected to participate in the United States’ Olympic trials for the 10,000-meter category. Prior to fulfilling this dream, a foot injury kept her from competing in the trials, dashing her hopes of joining the American team in Brazil.
During last year’s NCAA championships, Finn lost her socks and shoes while running, yet still managed to finish an impressive 19th in the race.
“She just does really well against adversity,” McGregor said. “No matter how high the obstacle.”
While this weekend’s race could place pressure on Finn, McGregor says that it’s equally important for Finn to maintain the routines and tactics that have brought success so far.
“Go there being prepared and confident,” McGregor said. “It’s more about keeping your emotions in check, because your body is ready to do it.”
Added McGuire: “She has a passion to prepare, she loves everything about the sport. … She loves to prepare to compete. And she loves to do it on a daily basis.”