TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – A frustrated Nicole Edwards sat alone near the starting line for the NCAA Cross Country Championships.
Nearby, Michigan coach Mike McGuire stared off at the course where his team had just concluded its season with an unexpected 21st-place finish – the worst finish at Nationals in his 16 seasons at Michigan.
“It was definitely disappointing,” McGuire said. “We lost track of each other out there, and you have to have some unity in a field of this size. It was not a typical Michigan performance – that’s for sure.”
No. 9 Michigan hasn’t placed lower than sixth at Nationals since 2002. It placed third last season.
Edwards, who finished 12th last year, was expected to provide much-needed experience for the Wolverines.
The redshirt junior led the pack of Michigan runners early in the race, but quickly fell off the pace.
“I passed her, and it was very strange because usually when we see each other and make eye contact, it’s like ‘OK we’re going to stick together now,’ ” fifth-year Erin Webster said. “But she never came.”
Prior to Nationals, Edwards had been the top Wolverine runner in every scoring event that she competed in this season.
“She just didn’t have a good day,” McGuire said. “She’s been running well all year, but it didn’t happen today.”
Webster, who improved on her 51st-place performance last year, led the Wolverines, finished 34th (21:00) in the 6,000-meter race.
“That’s a great way to close out a career,” McGuire said. “She’s had a tremendous impact on the distance program. It’s fitting that she had the opportunity to step up today and get All-American.”
Webster has achieved All-American in track in 5,000 and 3,000 meters, but this is her first time receiving the honor in cross country.
“I’m happy that I’m All-American,” Webster said. “But I think the team finish overshadows my race. It’s hard to be excited when the team didn’t do as good as we would’ve liked.”
With about 1,000 meters remaining in the race, Webster was 21st. But she couldn’t sustain her position in the final section and fell back 13 spots before crossing the finish line.
“I think that it went out so fast that we didn’t have anything in the end,” Webster said. “I was hoping that the race would not go on any longer, because it wasn’t going to be pretty.”
According to McGuire, the only runner who sustained her pace was another senior, Lisa Uible, who finished 119th (21:43).
Uible led a corp of Michigan runners competing in their first Nationals. Freshman Danielle Tauro, redshirt sophomores Geena Gall, Katie Williams and Kelly Sampson also ran in Nationals for the first time.
“Nationals is the best of the best,” Tauro said. “It’s crazy to be racing against that many girls that are as good or better than you.”
The Wolverines were at a loss to explain their worst finish at Nationals in Michigan history.
“We had really good workouts leading up this week,” Gall said “I don’t know what happened. A lot of the girls looked like their legs were dead.”
The disappointing performance concludes a lackluster season for the women’s cross country team.
“This season was like my stock report,” McGuire said. “You’re up one week, and then the next you’re taking on water. But that’s a test of the character of your program. We have some good kids, and we’ll bounce back.”