After winning three consecutive Big Ten Championships, the Michigan women’s cross country team is eager to continue the streak.
“We want to win the Big Ten, first and foremost,” McGuire said. “We feel that we are capable of doing that. Our focus right now is on working on getting better.”
With six starters returning from last year’s championship squad — including All-America senior Rebecca Walter — the Wolverines seem well on their way.
Still, with every new season come new challenges, and McGuire has already had to face a few, with Walter and senior Theresa Feldkamp still recovering from minor injuries.
“I’ve had to be a little more patient,” McGuire said. “We’re balancing the boat on the water right now (with some of our injuries). What’s made it a little more bearable is that some of our other runners have really done their homework and are running well.”
Also, with eight freshman runners seeing their first collegiate action, McGuire knows that there will be an adjustment period. For that reason, he is just looking for the freshmen to show steady improvement in these first few meets.
On the other side of the spectrum, the team has seven seniors, including co-captains Walter and Feldkamp, to balance the inexperience of the young Wolverines. McGuire believes that the winning attitude and strong leadership from the proven seniors will allow the freshmen to find their role on the team and run their best races without additional pressure.
“You like to have seniors in your lineup,” McGuire said. “They set the tone for things. We do have some good upper- class leadership.”
At this early junction in the season, McGuire believes that his team is progressing at the correct pace to allow themselves to compete for another Big Ten Championship. Already, several Michigan runners have increased their intensity during training camp and the first few weeks of practice. Sophomore Erin Webster and junior Jessie Stewart have shown the necessary dedication and improvement to carry the load for the Wolverines until Walter and Feldkamp return to full strength.
But tomorrow Michigan will face its first real test of the season at the Great Meadows Invitational in Virginia. The Wolverines will face off against elite programs such as Georgetown and West Virginia.
“We’re going to see some teams that we don’t normally see,” McGuire said. “This will be a good early-season test for us to see where we are at, with people coming off of a good training week at camp.”
The Wolverines will also have a chance to give potential recruits an opportunity to see what wearing the Maize and Blue entails.
Even though just five Michigan runners participated in the non-scoring Jeff Drenth Memorial last weekend, the Wolverines will send 12 runners to Great Meadows. Redshirt freshman Claire Otwell will line up for Michigan for the first time. Sophomore Alyson Kohlmeier and senior Ana Gjesdal will also look to pace the Wolverines to a strong finish in Virginia.