The adidas Pre-Nationals meet in Terre Haute, Ind., was the second time the Michigan women’s cross country team had raced on the Lavern Gibson Championship Course this season.
And for senior Erin Finn, the result was the same.
Pulling away from the field halfway through the race, Finn cruised to victory with a time of 19:44.70 for the 6,000-meter race. Leading the Wolverines to a third-place team finish behind Colorado and Oregon, Finn set a meet record and finished almost 24 seconds ahead of her closest competitor.
“To be able to perform well at this level is very promising and justifies my goal that shooting for a national title is a possibility,” Finn said.
The Wolverines were boosted by a strong performance from junior Avery Evenson, who came in 22nd place. Redshirt junior Gina Sereno, redshirt junior Jamie Morrissey and freshman Madeline Trevisan rounded off the Wolverines’ scorers, finishing in 49th, 51st and 56th, respectively.
Michigan had previously traveled to Terre Haute for the Sycamore Invitational, hosted by Indiana State on Sept. 10. In that meet, the Wolverines dominated a field of just three teams, and Finn won by nearly 45 seconds. Five weeks from now, Michigan will return to Terre Haute once again, this time for the NCAA Championships.
“I think there isn’t another team other than Indiana State University that knows this course better than we do,” Finn said. “It’s really helpful when you’re running a course and it starts to get tough because it just helps give you mental markers of where you have to hold on and where you have to push.”
Despite the Wolverines’ familiarity with the course, Pre-Nationals presented a different challenge. Forty-two teams competed in the race, and many of them were highly ranked as well.
“The competition was definitely at an increased level, more than we’ve seen all season,” Finn said. “Teams are bringing their A-squads to preview the course and to really cement themselves as national contenders.”
With its performance Saturday, Michigan may have done just that. Coach Mike McGuire noted in particular that the Wolverines finished higher than Portland, a team that had beaten them handily at the Roy Griak Invitational back in September.
“The dynamics of a race this size are something we don’t encounter until we get to the national meet,” McGuire said. “So I thought we did a nice job of handling a big field.”
The Wolverines have three meets remaining before the NCAA Championships in a month. With their performance so far this season, they should qualify for nationals with little trouble, and their familiarity with the course will only bode well for them at the meet.
“We’re still building up some of the stuff we’re doing training wise, we’re really only at the halfway point of the season,” McGuire said. “We’ll lighten up a little bit going into the conference meet and gear it back up a little bit before the regional meet, and gear it back down before the national meet.”