WEST LAFAYETTE – The race had been run, and the cool-down was completed – Now all the Michigan’s women’s cross country team could do was wait for the results. The Wolverines stood huddled together at Purdue’s Varsity Cross Country Course, shivering not only from the cold, but also in anticipation. When Michigan coach Mike McGuire strode over to his runners and joined their circle, there was a moment of silence, followed by a shrieks of joy.
“It wasn’t a fluke!” junior Andrea Parker exclaimed.
The “fluke” that Parker was referring to was the huge Big Ten Championship victory two weekends ago on that same course, when Michigan defeated teams such as then-No. 9 Wisconsin and then-No. 23 Michigan State. Last Saturday, riding the confidence that accompanies such a huge win, the Wolverines finished second out of 31 teams at the Great Lakes Regional Championship, falling short only to Notre Dame. This place automatically qualified them for the NCAA Championships, which will be held a week from today in Terre Haute, Ind.
“We handled our success at the Big Ten’s appropriately; we celebrated, and got back to work,” McGuire said.
The Wolverines’ hard work has certainly paid off. At the beginning of the season, Michigan was not even ranked. Currently, it is No. 12 in the country.
“Our ranking is a testament to the fact that the team really stepped up, and was willing to work hard,” McGuire said.
The team was aware of the mindset that would be necessary in order to emerge triumphantly at this meet.
“We knew we needed a Big Ten type of performance,” McGuire said.
In order to get into this frame of mind, Michigan attempted to duplicate its training for Big Tens.
“We tried to do everything the same,” freshman Rebecca Walter said. “Down to what we ate.”
The Wolverines’ outstanding finish was due to a strong effort from each runner. Walter lead the Wolverines’ pack, placing 11th.
“I was confident coming off of Big Tens,” Walter said. “But I was still a little nervous. Since I am a freshman, every race is a new experience for me.”
McGuire was impressed with Walter’s success.
“Rebecca is outstanding for a freshman,” he said. “And it is impressive that she has been able to step up for the last couple meets. She’s been our most consistent runner.”
Next in line for the Wolverines was senior Jane Martineau, who placed 13th, followed closely by junior Lindsay Gallo, who was 17th. Parker and captain Jeanne Spink rounded out the top five for the Wolverines.
“As far as place improvements from Big Ten’s are concerned, I’d say that Jane Martineau really stepped up,” McGuire said. “Gallo did a great job, and Parker and Spink did really well in the fourth and fifth spots.”
McGuire was pleased with his team’s results, and is now ready for NCAAs.
“It’s great that our best two meets have been our biggest ones,” McGuire said. “It bodes well for us going into nationals. We’ll take a break tomorrow, and have a couple of good workouts this week.”
As for the Wolverines’ chances of performing well at Nationals, McGuire is optimistic.
“If we could hold our national rankings, that’d be good,” he said.
If Michigan is able to do that, it won’t be a fluke either.