After the Michigan women’s cross country team captured the Big Ten title at Purdue two weeks ago, the team has leapfrogged through the rankings, moving from No. 24 to No. 12 in the nation. Members of the team have also been rewarded for their contribution to the Wolverines’ success.

Recently, Michigan coach Mike McGuire was named Big Ten Coach of the Year, after leading the team to its fourth Big Ten Championship in the past 10 years. This is the fourth time McGuire has been honored with the award. The others came in succession, when the Wolverines won three consecutive titles from 1992-’94.

“It’s definitely an honor,” McGuire said. “It’s a (result) of what we did at the Big Ten Championships. We had some pretty good athletes step up, and I owe a lot to the kids on my team.”

Rebecca Walter was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, as she was the first Wolverine and the first freshman to cross the line, finishing in fifth place in a time of 17:47. Walter is the sixth Wolverine to earn the prestigious honor.

“Rebecca’s been the most consistent runner in our lineup,” McGuire said. “Her ability to compete is not something that you’d necessarily expect from a freshman.”

Walter and junior Lindsey Gallo were both named to the All-Big Ten first team. It was Gallo’s second consecutive time earning the honor. Gallo followed Walter across the finish line in seventh place with a time of 17:49.

Michigan heads back to the same course in West Lafayette this Saturday to compete in the NCAA Great Lakes Regional. Michigan will battle in a region that boasts six of the top 30 teams in the nation, including No. 5 Notre Dame, No 19 Michigan State and No. 20 Indiana.

“Depth has been our strength all season,” McGuire said. “This meet, we can only run seven athletes and it’s (important) that they step up. They’ve looked good in practice, and I think that they’ll represent the team quite well.

“We’re in a very strong region, but we’re looking forward to the challenge. It’ll be a good test for everyone.”

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