The No. 10 Michigan women’s cross country team established its presence early in the Big Ten championship to capture its second consecutive title. In an overwhelming win, the Wolverines proved that they are a serious threat to win a national title.
Michigan finished first out of a 14-team field that included No. 9 Penn State and four other nationally-ranked teams in Bloomington. For the first time in a decade, the Wolverines captured consecutive conference titles with their best race of the season.
The key to winning the race was the strategy put in place. Coming out fast, Michigan settled for a good placement near the front of the pack, but didn’t expend unnecessary effort to try immediately claiming the lead.
“We wanted to be in good position, but not necessarily leading,” said Michigan coach Mike McGuire. “We engaged with the runners from the contending teams early, and then from there we actually established our presence even more as the race went on.”
Leading the Wolverines were fifth-year seniors Jamie Morrissey and Gina Sereno. Finishing the race in third and fourth place, respectively, their performances earned them first-team All-Big Ten honors.
Sereno started the first 5,000 meters in second place. She stayed consistent throughout before dropping to a fourth-place finish in the last kilometer with a time of 20:22.2.
Morrissey followed closely behind Sereno to start the race. Unlike her teammate, her placement fluctuated before dropping to seventh by the 4,000th meter. Within the last 2,000 meters, she overtook four others to take third overall with a time of 20:16.8.
Unlike the previous meet — where the fourth and fifth scorers placed in the 80s and 90s — Michigan’s depth proved to be a strength rather than liability. The trio of redshirt junior Avery Evenson, sophomore Madeline Trevisan and junior Claire Borchers broke through a slow start to finish in succession for 15th through 17th place, respectively. Finishing within a second of each other, the three followed the game plan McGuire implemented to help the Wolverines to a 31-point lead over second-place, Minnesota.
“They were really excited,” McGuire said. “They executed the race plan. They executed being accountable for each other. They left it all out there.
“It’s a great feeling when they know they competed well individually. One individual competed well, and then their teammates did the same. So it was a very important collective effort.”
Evenson — an All-American — set a new personal record, finishing in 20:47.5. Trevisan finished in 20:47.7, and Borcher in 20:48.5.
Fifth-year seniors Haley Meier, Sophie Linn, Sarah Zieve placed 27th, 46th, and 55th, respectively, with junior Ellie Leonard finishing 64th. Though the seniors didn’t place in the top five like Morrissey or Sereno, they contributed to the scoring by pushing back the placement of opposing runners. And at the end of the day, when the Wolverines celebrated euphorically, their lack of a top finish didn’t matter all that much in the end.
“I’m really happy for my seniors,” McGuire said. “It’s a great way to close out their Big Ten cross country career, and we’re really just excited that both teams, both the women’s and men’s won. That’s the first time that’s happened since 1993.”