TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Higher expectations but the same result.
The Michigan women’s cross country team came out of yesterday’s national championship meet at LaVern Gibson Championship Course with the same accolades it garnered last year – one national honor and a sixth-place overall finish.
But this year’s squad entered the championship unbeaten in team scoring meets and ranked third in the country, while last year’s squad was ranked 10th.
Last year, Rebecca Walter earned All-America honorable mention, and the Wolverines received 246 points.
“I know this team is better than that and the team knows that,” Mike McGuire said. “If you are going to measure it by one day, we are the same as we were last year.”
Yesterday, Michigan’s sixth-place total of 250 points was 102 behind national champion Stanford.
In her final cross country meet for Michigan, senior co-captain Rebecca Walter earned All-America honors for the second time in her career with a 27th-place time of 26:20.
“In my 16 years here and knowledge of the program before that, I can say we have never had anyone that impacted this program as much as (Walter) has,” McGuire said.
In addition to her All-America honors, the Beverly Hills, Mich., product has been Michigan’s top finisher at the last four NCAA Championships and has been named all-Big Ten first team three times, 2002 Big Ten Athlete of the Year and two-time team captain.
McGuire’s plan going into the 6-kilometer race was to have his seven runners start in contention so that they would not have too much ground to make up later in the race.
“We were not out high enough to start,” McGuire said.
After three kilometers, the Wolverines were staggered in bunches. Walter and sophomore Alyson Kohlmeier passed the mark together in about 10:11, while redshirt freshman Nicole Edwards, redshirt sophomore Erin Webster, senior Ana Gjesdal and junior Jessie Stewart were within four seconds of each other between 10:21 and 10:25.
The runners could not make up the ground as they spread out over the final three kilometers.
Walter ran the final three kilometers in 10:13 and out-kicked a group of three runners to earn her final position.
“(Walter) did a good job of moving through (the field),” McGuire said.
Michigan’s other scorers were Kohlmeier in 59th place, Edwards in 72nd, Gjesdal in 82nd and Stewart in 97th.
On Oct. 15, Michigan competed in the NCAA Pre-National meet on the same course and won the White division – beating three teams that beat them yesterday.
The Wolverines were paced at Pre-Nationals by Kohlmeier who ran 16 seconds faster than yesterday.
Michigan also missed out on the contributions of Webster, who failed to place for the first time all season.
Michigan’s total of 250 was 38 points worse than fifth-place Illinois, who the Wolverines dominated at the Big Ten Championships by 18 points.
“It was not a horrendous race, but it was off our standard from what we have done this year,” McGuire said.
After winning every meet leading up to the nationals, Walter would not allow yesterday’s finish to ruin her team’s season.
“This season was the best season I have had with the team,” Walter said.
The only other Michigan team during McGuire’s tenure that won every meet before Nationals was the 1994 squad that finished second to Villanova.