This weekend, Michigan’s women’s cross country team will travel to Purdue to compete in the first Big Ten Championships on the Boilermakers’ new Varsity Cross Country Course. Though the layout is foreign to the Wolverines, the goal remains the same: To come out in front of the pack.

“We are focused and ready to go,” coach Mike McGuire said. “We are better than we were last year, but so is the rest of the conference.”

Winning will be no small feat for Michigan, but in McGuire’s opinion, the team has one weapon that could help it pull ahead of teams such as No. 11 Wisconsin, which is the top conference team in national rankings, and the defending champion, Michigan State.

“We have nine really solid runners,” McGuire said. “We have the depth that we need, we just need to make sure that we have nine people on the line with a big-meet mindset.”

In order to achieve this, McGuire motivates the runners during practices by reminding them of the stiff competition that they will be up against on Sunday.

“When we are doing intervals, Coach will shout ‘This one’s for MSU,’ or ‘This one’s for Wisconsin,’ before we start each one,” captain Jeanne Spink said. “It helps to mentally prepare us for the race.”

As far as race strategy is concerned, McGuire is confident in his team’s ability to scope out their opponents.

“There will only be 99 runners at this meet. Last week, there were 259,” McGuire said. “It will be easier to find people and match up with people. We just have to commit to finding them.”

Junior Lindsay Gallo also believes that a win will require a team effort.

“Our goal is to stay in a pack up towards the front,” she said. “Everyone needs to contribute to attain the team result that we want.”

McGuire hopes that the cross country program’s history of excellence will help inspire the Wolverines to be at the top of their games on Sunday.

“This is the most important meet on the schedule,” he said. “I want them to go to the line knowing about the legacy of the program. For the past 10 years, we have come in either first or second at this meet, except for one year, when we came in third. The standard for excellence is high, and I hope that knowledge of this appeals to their competitive nature, so that they will foster and sustain this legacy.”

The runners are also confident about Big Tens.

“We’re excited,” Gallo said. “We are optimistic about our chances to do well.”

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