Coming off a six-point loss to rival Michigan State at the Big Ten Championships, the No. 15 Michigan women’s cross country team knew what it had to do.
On Saturday at the NCAA Great Lakes Regional, the Wolverines responded with a huge race, winning the team title with 45 points. Michigan State finished a distant second with 77 points.
Michigan was led by fifth-year senior Danielle Tauro, who captured the individual title with a time of 20:27. Seven seconds later, junior Rebecca Addison finished in a close second. Junior Jillian Smith (fifth), redshirt freshman Taylor Pogue (eighth), and freshman Brooke Handler (29th) rounded out the scoring runners for the Wolverines.
Tauro, Addison, Smith and Pogue earned All-Region honors for finishing in the top-25.
With the win, Michigan secured an automatic bid to the NCAA National Championships.
“Going into it, we were all extremely motivated after coming up a little bit short for the team title at Big Tens a few weeks ago, so we came here with vengeance,” Tauro said. “Obviously the goal at regionals is to qualify for nationals, but more than anything, the goal was to win. We wanted to beat the Big Ten, and we did that today.”
Michigan was led by Tauro and Addison’s strong individual performances, but ultimately it was the team effort that helped the Wolverines secure the regional title.
Tauro and Addison started out with the lead pack and stuck together the entire way. With about 800 meters to go, Tauro began to pull away and Addison fought off two runners to secure the 1-2 finish.
Smith and Pogue also ran together for most of the race, helping each other throughout and pushing the pace to finish five seconds apart.
“Our plan was to get into our waves of people,” Tauro said. “I was supposed to run with (Addison), and we did that the entire way through. Taylor stuck with Jill and they worked together. I think everyone did a really great job of running in packs today. I think we executed our plans to a ‘T.’ ”
Michigan coach Mike McGuire was also pleased with his runners’ effort, noting that they ran in packs a lot better than at the Big Ten Championships.
“Without question, it was our best team performance of the year,” McGuire said.
With the hard training behind them, the Wolverines will have to prepare themselves mentally for their final challenge — NCAA Nationals.
“It’s the highest level of running,” McGuire said. “It’s as much, or more, psychological as (it is) physical out there.”
Tauro said she believes the Wolverines have what it takes to finish strong at nationals, saying they have several runners who could garner All-American honors, which would put the Wolverines in a good position for the team score. Personally, she wants to be one of the All-American status — a goal she’s had since her freshman year — and that finally seems like a real possibility.
As a team, a top-10 finish is not out of the question.
“I think top 10 would be really good for the program,” Addison said. “We’re headed in the right direction.”