After Saturday’s race at the NCAA Pre-Nationals in Terre Haute, Ind., the consensus among the women’s cross country team went mostly like this: “It wasn’t our best race, but it was better than the Notre Dame Invitational.”
Two and a half weeks ago in South bend, the team finished in a disappointing fourth place.
On Saturday, No. 13 Michigan finished third among the 35 teams at Pre-Nationals – behind No. 8 Princeton and No. 6 Arizona State. Three Wolverines finished in the top 25, including redshirt junior Nicole Edwards (20:29) at 11th place, fifth-year senior Erin Webster (20:39) at 13th and sophomore Jenny Morgan (20:56) at 25th.
The pace was fast, and the Michigan runners had difficulty running as a cohesive group.
“In big races, it is helpful to find each other out there on the course and help each other along the way,” Edwards said. “If you are running with a teammate and you feel tired, all you need to remember is to stay with them. If I run with them in workouts, then I can run with them in a race.”
On Saturday, many of the Wolverines struggled with pushing the pace during the middle of the race when they began to feel fatigued.
Michigan will have few worries about keeping motivated in the next two weeks as it prepares to compete for its sixth straight conference title at the Big Ten Championships.
“I wouldn’t say that the third-place finish (at Pre-Nationals) was a complete failure,” Webster said. “It’s good in a sense that no one will be satisfied, and that will give us motivation to work even harder going into Big Tens.”
Besides the freshmen, no one on the team has ever experienced anything but first place in the Big Ten.
“I don’t even want to think of not winning Big Tens, because it’s that huge,” Webster said. “Winning the Big Tens would give us the motivation we needed that we are this good team that we practice as every day.”
But winning a sixth conference championship will be difficult.
Michigan is ranked behind three Big Ten powers: No. 4 Minnesota, No. 9 Michigan State and No. 10 Illinois. At Pre-Nationals, Michigan finished ahead of Illinois, who took fifth.
Just as the Wolverines felt that they ran better at Pre-Nationals than at Notre Dame, they know that the team must continue to improve when it looks to extend its Big Ten superiority at the Big Ten Championships in Columbus in two weeks.
“Winning five times in a row, that’s something that we are definitely proud of,” Edwards said. “It will really hurt if we lost the sixth time out. How can we have any other goal but to win?”