The No. 19 Michigan women’s cross country team concluded their season at the NCAA championship this past Saturday in Stillwater, Okla. The Wolverines were hopeful coming into the race after they had finished near the top of both the Big Ten and the Great Lakes region, only falling to rivals Michigan State, Ohio State and Notre Dame. However, Michigan just wasn’t prepared for what lay ahead.
The Wolverines placed 22nd out of 31 teams running, with a total time of 1:44:03.40 on the six kilometer course — falling well short of its goals going into the meet.
“As a team we definitely wanted to be top 10, but we had quite a few challenges amongst different people this year,” senior Ericka VanderLende said.
VanderLende herself was Michigan’s top performer, coming in at 76th place out of 254 overall with a time of 20:28.0. This was not the result that VanderLende was aiming for, but she is still hopeful for a post season accolade.
“I think individually the goal’s gonna be All-American and I think that was within reach today,” said VanderLende. “Just not a great individual race for me personally.”
VanderLende had a very up and down race, being all the way back at 115th place at the two kilometer marker and then managing to work her way up to 74th place at the four kilometer marker. The environment was also a mixed bag in terms of its impact on the racers, with a hilly course similar to that of the Wolverines’ home course.
“We’re kind of used to that course based on our home course being pretty hilly. I think we were pretty prepared,” VanderLende said. “The weather I feel like was also probably a challenge. … I know we’re from Michigan, but it was a windchill of about 20 at race time.”
But even dealing with the cold weather, Michigan was still not satisfied with the results.
“I think we were just kind of OK today,” Michigan coach Mike McGuire said. “A little bit unfulfilled.”
McGuire was not satisfied with the Wolverines’ final ranking this season. They were ranked No. 10 in the preseason before falling all the way to No. 26 in Week Five, and then No. 19 going into the championship race.
“We ranked higher early season and then we kind of finished about our ranking,” McGuire said. “We were actually three below finish, three below today what our ranking was.”
The national championship was clinched by NC State with a total time of 1:39:43.20. Additionally, NC State had the highest individual runner in Katelyn Tuohy who ran a 19:27.7.
As Michigan closes the book on a disappointing season of cross country, it will have to hope these feelings from Oklahoma can motivate them moving forward.