Overcoming a difficult course and sultry conditions, the Michigan women’s cross country team proved once again it belongs among the elite squads in the nation with its dominant performance in Saturday’s Indiana Open in Bloomington.
Michigan runners finished in 10 of the top 20 spots, including six of the top 10 in the non-scoring event.
“Despite the heat and the difficulty of the course, I thought we managed well,” Michigan coach Mike McGuire said.
Redshirt junior Erin Webster beat the terrain and the 80-degree temperatures to place first (17:04). McGuire said he was not at all surprised to see Webster as the class of the field.
“Erin is picking up right where she left off in outdoor track (last spring),” McGuire said.
Webster finished 26 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher, Indiana’s Jessica Gall. It was the largest margin of victory for a winning Wolverine since Lisa Ouellet finished 34 seconds ahead of her teammate Katy Radkewich in a dual meet versus Michigan State in September 1999.
“I’m actually quite heat sensitive,” Webster said. “I just tried to stay hydrated. I was putting water on the back of my neck at the starting line.”
Michigan captured both the third and fourth spots as Katie Gwyther (18:00) and Nicole Edwards (18:04) completed the 5,000-meter IU Cross Country Championship Course nearly in sync.
The race was Gwyther’s first as a Wolverine. She’s attending Michigan as a graduate student and competing with her final year of eligibility following a three-year career at Quinnipiac, where she was named an All-American last year.
Purdue, Butler and Huntington also competed in the event.
McGuire was pleased with the way his team stacked up against Indiana, but refrained from using Saturday’s race as a precursor of things to come against the rest of the Big Ten.
“Indiana’s got a nice little team,” he said “We’ll really see where we’re at (in the conference) when we go up against teams like Illinois and Minnesota.”
Many of Michigan’s top runners did not compete in the event, including recently elected senior captains Katie Erdman and Jessie Stewart. Arianne Field, the third captain, finished sixth (18:11). McGuire also rested junior Alyson Kohlmeier.
Junior Elisabeth Uible, the winner of last week’s Michigan Open, finished in 12th (18:42).
Michigan’s next meet will take place on the West Coast when it travels to compete in the Sundodger Invitational hosted by Washington on Saturday.