TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – His soft muttering of “go blue” and the rare and gradual emergence of a smile on coach Mike McGuire’s face summed up the Michigan women’s cross country team’s performance at the NCAA Championships yesterday.
And upon learning that the team had finished third behind first-place Stanford and second-place Colorado, fifth-year senior Arianne Field summed up No. 10 Michigan’s season.
“I was just really excited,” Field said. “It had been so disappointing in the past years that I just didn’t feel we performed, we just didn’t perform as the team that we are, and today I feel that we really pulled together.”
After last week’s surprisingly poor third-place showing at regionals, the Wolverines (233 points) knew they had to make a significant turnaround in yesterday’s 31-team meet in order to consider the season a success.
And with the sun warming the crowd, the Wolverines waltzed lightheartedly through the sludgy terrain of the LaVern Gibson course at Indiana State and onto the trophy stand.
The season came full circle.
“The two major goals that we had at the beginning of the year (were) to repeat as Big Ten champions and to get on the (podium at nationals),” McGuire said. “So from that standpoint, we accomplished things.”
Regional champ Nicole Edwards led the way for Michigan, rallying from “20th to 30th” to finish 12th in the 6,000-meter race. Throughout the year, Edwards has typically been the third Michigan runner to finish, but the redshirt sophomore has paced the Wolverines lately with a toughened mentality and great finishes the past two weeks.
“In team meeting yesterday, (McGuire) told us everyone needs to fight, fight every minute of the race; it’s not going to be easy,” Edwards said. “And as I was running, that was going through my mind. I remember he said I have to stay engaged, and I said, ‘Nicole, stay engaged, you’ve got to fight for this.’ “
She said that she realized she had earned All-American honors on the homestretch and concentrated on just finishing the last 400 meters.
The determined Winnipeg, Manitoba, native wasn’t going to be hindered by anything, not even the muddy course. When there is a thick and sludgy course, McGuire says, racing positions are more significant than the racers’ times.
And for the second straight week, Edwards used her strong position to catapult herself to an outstanding finish.
Junior Alyson Kohlmeier followed Edwards as the second Wolverine to finish, coming in 49th place, with redshirt junior Erin Webster right behind in 51st after leading Michigan through the halfway mark.
But the race might have been most significant for co-captain Field, who raced in her final NCAA Championships.
Field said the season wasn’t easy but added that her fifth year could not have been better.
“(It was) up and down (for the team), but personally, I just felt that the whole season I didn’t have any bad races, and I was really thankful for that,” Field said. “But I didn’t feel like I had any great races, so this was the great race that I had been wanting.”