When the top five Michigan runners finished within 23 seconds of each other at the Michigan Open in Dexter on Friday, it meant one thing: they’re off to a fine start. Michigan coach Mike McGuire was satisfied. An Eastern Michigan runner crossed the finish line first followed by seven Wolverines.
The women’s cross country team stretched their legs at the annual informal non-scoring meet to get the season underway as the Wolverines won’t compete again until the middle of the month at the Spartan Invitational.
After a summer of individual training and just 10 days of cross country camp at the Michigan Biological Station, the top five ran together surprisingly well, as did the team as a whole.
The goal is always to stay as a pack as far along in the race as possible in order to help pace and push one another. But that doesn’t usually come without practice. When the top five runners finish within seconds of each other before regular team practices begin, that’s usually a sign of success (especially when the races become 6Ks later in the season).
Sophomore Kaitlyn Patterson and senior Danielle Tauro are projected to be the team’s best this year and they crossed the finish line first and second for Michigan.
“It’s really tough to stay at a tough pace when you are by yourself and pushing yourself,” Tauro said. “I did the best that I could with maybe 800 or 600 to go. K Pat came up on me and that’s really what I needed was a little kick in the butt.”
Patterson is known for her endurance and Tauro for her extra kick at the end of a race. They hope the combination will help them capture the Big Ten title as a team.
Tauro, the only senior on the roster, has been on track to lead since her sophomore year. Forced to redshirt last season when injuries plagued her and other upperclassman, now-sophomores were thrown into scoring roles as freshman. As a result, they improved tremendously in their first year and are expected give the team an extra boost this season.
Michigan is running as a pack right from the start this season as a result, and a healthy Tauro is hoping to make her debut as an All-American this season. She’s had that goal since sophomore year, at which time she used the word “eventually” before All-American. After Friday’s race, her emphatic fist pump seemed to show her confidence that this year is going to be different. She was the first Wolverine to cross the line, followed by Patterson seven seconds later, a trend that will likely continue.
“If we can keep a short gap (22 or 23 seconds) once we extend it over to 6K then we are going to be in pretty good shape,” McGuire said.