While the Michigan Open occurred back on Sept. 2, it might’ve been an apt name for Saturday’s Sycamore Invitational.
The No. 9 Michigan women’s cross country team trampled the 5,000-meter race, finishing with just 16 points. The Wolverines bested Duke by 31 points and host Indiana State by 73.
“We were better (Saturday) than we were in week one,” said Michigan coach Mike McGuire. “We had some people that I thought showed some nice improvement from week one.”
Just as she was at the Michigan Open, senior Erin Finn was far and away the top runner, finishing a full 44 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor with a time of 17:04. Finn’s victory was the eighth of her career. Her two wins so far this year have come on the heels of an injury that kept her out of the 2016 Olympic trials.
“I actually didn’t start running until probably about five or six weeks ago,” Finn said. “I was still working very hard, though, on the bike, on the elliptical and in the pool. Also I have confidence knowing that I’ve raced before and that I can race well.”
McGuire was quick to heap praise onto Finn as well.
“(Finn) really gives us an ace in the hole at any meet,” McGuire said. “She’s fit, she’s strong and she spearheads the attack every time we are out there.”
Despite the presence of two other teams, the race really was one between Finn and her Michigan teammates.
Redshirt junior Gina Sereno took the runner-up spot, completing the race in 17:48. Junior Avery Evenson placed third for the second consecutive week with a time of 18:01, and redshirt sophomore Claire Borchers posted a time of 18:06, good for fourth place.
Saturday, the Wolverines’ depth did not stop there.
Redshirt juniors Jaimie Phelan, Jamie Morrissey, Hannah Meier and Sophie Linn and redshirt sophomore Ellie Leonard took spots six through 10, respectively. The Blue Devils’ Lindsay Billings was the only non-Michigan runner to finish in the top 10.
“We have some really big goals on this team this year,” Finn said. “You can never do well without teammates who are working very hard, dedicating and giving their all, and without a coach who is really committed and an athletic trainer. There are so many girls right now who are committed to doing things the right way and working hard.”
The Wolverines’ domination of the Sycamore Invitational also featured a few new faces. Evenson, Meier, redshirt freshman Lauren Van Vlierbergen and redshirt freshman Meg Darmofal all made their first appearances in scored meets for Michigan.
“Any time you can debut in the maize and blue is a very exciting time,” Finn said. “To be able to score is something really special.”
Though McGuire and the Wolverines have now won seven of their last eight meets dating back to 2014, the Sycamore Invitational was noteworthy because of the upcoming races that will be held on the same track. Both the NCAA Pre-Nationals on Oct. 15 and the NCAA Championships on Nov. 19 will take place on the same course.